Reconstructing WEBE 108 and WICC

January 1, 2012


Cumulus tackles the challenge of an in-place rebuild.

WICC air studio

WEBE-FM (WEBE108) and WICC-AM became sister stations in 1989 and moved into a new facility at the end of that year. Most licensees try to build a facility to last a long time, and these stations managed to get 20 years of service from theirs. But after all that time, the analog infrastructure and equipment, as well as years and years of layering new systems on top, meant it was time to upgrade.

In late 2010, the lease for the stations was due to expire, and the owners were looking at alternative office spaces, but the landlord and Cumulus reached an agreement for the stations to stay.

From a construction standpoint, it's easier to build a new facility and move in rather rebuilding in place; but a new facility has its own challenges as well. Cumulus was ready for the challenge.

Dave Supplee, regional engineer for Cumulus, was the lead for most of the project. The first part of the plan was to evaluate the current space and begin planning for the changes. The rebuild extended beyond the studios and included much of the office area. Supplee and his team worked to provide the IT infrastructure to the office areas, but most of that work was left to a contractor to finish.

On the studio side, the studios were completely rearranged and remodeled, and the technical operations center (TOC) was modified. Even the existing wiring was replaced.

- continued on page 2



Cumulus tackles the challenge of an in-place rebuild.

Look at the old

The old studios included an FM control room, AM control room, AM talk studio, newsroom and four production studios. Wiring to each studio was routed through conduits that ran under the floor, which was the plenum ceiling in the space below. In 1989, the space below was empty, so it was easy to run the conduit. This time, the new cabling was run overhead because fishing new cable through conduits with existing and working wiring was not going to be easy.

The old wiring included layers of additions over the years: As updates were needed, new wire was added. But even with updated wiring, most of the IT network was run on CAT-5 (not even CAT-5e). The fresh, overhead start was the way to go.

The studio side began with WICC. A new control room was built and the station moved in. While a new talk studio was built, the hosts and guests all worked within the control room. The new talk studio took over part of the space where the old newsroom was located.

WICC talk studio

WICC talk studio


The remainder of the old newsroom and the old AM air studio became a larger room for the FM control room. Relocating this wall was one of the major changes in the project.

- continued on page 3



Cumulus tackles the challenge of an in-place rebuild.

The leapfrog studio swap continued as WEBE was temporarily relocated to a new production room while the new FM studio was completed. Several weeks later, WEBE moved into its home.

WEBE air studio

WEBE air studio


While only a few walls were moved, all the studio walls needed work. In 1989, a carpet-like wall treatment was applied to control sound. After 20 years, this fabric was full of dust. It was pulled down, which meant the wall surfaces had to be prepped for new coverings. Drywall dust was everywhere.

Starting to look new

WICC air studio

WICC air studio


Another wall change was made in the TOC. The old TOC had a small closet, which was removed. A door was added to access an adjacent room (formerly the smoking lounge - how times have changed), which became the engineering office.

Another major change in the TOC was moving the racks. The three old racks were replaced by four new racks, which were oriented 90 degrees from the previous location. The wall to the hallway was replaced with a large window, so station visitors could see the magical blinking lights. The TOC remodel also provided a perfect opportunity to clean out the graveyard of old equipment.

- continued on page 4



Cumulus tackles the challenge of an in-place rebuild.

At the heart of the new studios is an Axia Livewire system. Powerstation frames are installed in the studios and the TOC, and Element consoles are connected. All new CAT-6-compliant (Belden MediaTwist) wiring was run throughout the facility. With the BSI Op-X automation computers housed in the TOC, the in-studio Powerstation chassis in each studio was sufficient for I/O. No additional Axia Nodes are installed in the studios.

There are some Nodes in the TOC for the additional sources. These Nodes are connected to punch blocks for two reasons: It allows some flexibility in connections; and Supplee was able to distribute audio sources and feeds among several Nodes to provide some additional redundancy in the system. The Axia plan typically puts a node in each rack to handle sources within that rack, i.e. one node for the satellite receiver, one node for the remote feeds, etc. Even with Supplee's distributed approach only 10 blocks were needed in the TOC.

Looking through the hallway window into the TOC

Looking through the hallway window into the TOC


There are no mic processors installed in the facility. All mic processing is handled within the Powerstations.

The FM control room and large production room have large, curved atrium windows, which provide a wonderful view of the city, but they are also a large reflective surface. Looking at the studio photos, you can also see an uncarpeted floor and plain walls. The floor (an Armstrong product that Cumulus also used in the Cincinnati studios, which were profiled in the July 2009 issue of Radio magazine) has some give to it, but it's still reflective. Acoustics First Sonora panels (2' x 2' x 1") were placed on the walls to control reflections.

The surprises

No studio project is completed without a few surprises. The previously noted IT wiring in the offices was just one.

The studios are on the seventh floor of the office building, so getting the studio furniture to the top floor was an effort. The building does not have a freight elevator, so several people had the task of carrying the larger pieces up the stairs to the top floor.

The real surprise came during the demolition of the FM air studio. A wall was removed from the old studio, and within that wall was a structural pillar that was not on the floor plan. While this could have been a disaster, the studio furniture was reoriented and still fit easily in the room.

- continued on page 5



Cumulus tackles the challenge of an in-place rebuild.

One other surprise was presented when it came time to install the wire ladder. A misunderstanding resulted in the wire ladder not being ordered. Fortunately, Middle Atlantic was not too far away in New Jersey. One interesting installation note is that the ladder in the TOC is not suspended from the ceiling (which would have been a eight-foot length of all-thread around HVAC and plumbing), but rather mounted on the rack tops. This simplified not only the ladder installation, but also the wire installation because it could be laid on top rather than threaded through support rods.

The back of the racks and the punch blocks in the TOC

The back of the racks and the punch blocks in the TOC


The entire project from the first demolition of walls until everything was installed an on-air took nearly 10 months. Much of this was because of the project being in-place, but the construction crews were also based out of town, so there was an ongoing back-and-forth of crews coming to town to work, then taking off again. In the end, it all came together. The previous studios worked well for 20 years. The new studios are poised to serve another 20.


Project Crew

Randy Shull, contract eningeer
Yancy McNair, Cumulus Pensacola
Radio Engineering Services
Dave Kerstin, BGS
Ken Skok, Axia
Dave Supplee, Cumulus


Equipment List

Acoustics First Sonora
Alesis Monitor One MKII
APC SUA2200
AudioScience ASI6585
Axia Element, Iprobe, Pathfinder Pro, Powerstation
Belden 1872A MediaTwist
BSI Op-X
Cable to Go CAT-6 wire
Data Center Depot wire ladder
E-V RE-20
Krone blocks
Middle Atlantic MRK Series
O.C. White Elite
Omnirax Innova
Radio Systems headphone amps
Telos NX12



Receive regular news and technology updates. Sign up for our free newsletter here.

Comments