It's Jan. 10, 2005. Instead of being in chilly Pennsylvania, I find myself in almost balmy Bossier City, LA, staring at a large sea of mud that contains the steel framework for the new home for our cluster. Our new nine-studio location is just a small part of an even greater sea of mud that I have been told will contain a 500,000+ square foot retail and entertainment complex. I have also just been informed that the complex, including our five stations, will all be opening on May 12; a short four months away. That amount of lead time was fine for a retail store, but not for a cluster of radio stations. In addition to the expected increase in my stress level, I am also not convinced.
Like many multi-station installations, all the air studios have similar layouts.
Hal Stinett and James Kester install rack equipment.
The STL and satellite antennas are mounted on the roof of the adjacent building.
Having several windows provides an open and spacious feel to the studios.
The equipment racks face a glass wall so visitors can see the backbone of the station.
This was the beginning of my involvement in the relocation of the Cumulus stations in Shreveport-Bossier City to the Louisiana Boardwalk, but the story actually began nearly two years earlier. At that time the area now occupied by the Louisiana Boardwalk was undeveloped riverfront property, across from the Red River entertainment district in Shreveport and adjacent to the successful Horseshoe Casino and Hotel. The developer, O&S Holdings, announced the ambitious plan to build the complex and contacted Cumulus with an attractive proposal to relocate to the site. The logic being the high visibility of our cluster in the market would help to promote the new complex. The concept of the boardwalk was a combination of outlet type stores, a large anchor store, movie theatre and several entertainment and dining venues. The setting was to resemble a small downtown, complete with a trolley and carousel and the stores housed in individual buildings, each with its own unique look.
By the time Gary Kline, Cumulus director of engineering, invited me to Bossier City, the anchor store, Bass Pro Shops, had opened, and the Regal Cinema was nearing completion. The rest of the stores and nightclubs were barely beginning construction. Our space had been promised to be ready for us to begin our work by March 15, so we began to hastily line up our equipment and outside contractors to perform some of the work. My goal was to build it to be as cost-effective and flexible as possible and in a short period of time, but also to do it to the same standards that new Cumulus builds have been in the past when the time budget was greater.
Making good time
We chose equipment and vendors that we had worked with on several prior projects, minimizing the time needed to supervise and manage their work. For our studio furniture, we selected the Wheatstone Preference series furniture and took advantage of Wheatstone's ability to provide us with prewired components. We used the Phase-3 prewire, which consists of wiring from the new Audioarts D75 consoles to blocks, and cabling from blocks to the peripheral studio equipment. We also purchased their Announcer and Headphone panels prewired as well. The furniture comes in pieces that need to be assembled on-site. It's not a huge job and only takes a few hours per studio to set the bases, screw them together with nuts and bolts and attach the countertops. The wiring cage is just that: blocks attached to the metal framework. Once assembled, the furniture is solid; a large man can stand on the countertop without fear of breaking it.
Skyline Communications of Indianapolis, IN, handled the IT wiring, pulled the audio trunks and fiber cables, and installed the satellite dishes and STL antennas. Lightner Electronics installed the rack room blocks, punched the cable down, installed the rack room trunk cables, assembled the studio furniture and mounted the consoles and prewire. Both of these contractors have provided superior work for us in the past, and this project was no exception. For our detail integration work we decided to use our own engineers. I asked Gary Zocolo from our Youngstown, OH, cluster to join me for this part of the project. Zocolo has been involved in several of our other recent consolidation projects. His attention to detail, ability to find solutions to the issues that arise when building large projects such as this, and excellent work ethic made him the ideal choice. Jeff Chancey, Cumulus regional engineer, and local engineers James Kester and Hal Stinnett were all heavily involved in the integration. They also handled the day-to-day crises of the early stages of the project, but like all engineers their time was somewhat limited due to many ongoing needs at the existing facility, and in Chancey's case, the large geographic region for which he is responsible.
Nothing is easy
We faced some unique challenges for this project. One of them was the high cost of plenum-rated cable. The developer's architect had designed our space and chose an open plenum design for the hallway ceiling where the cables were to run. We extensively examined the costs of plenum-rated AES cable vs. conduits with Cat-5 or regular AES multipair. We finally decided to use shielded non-plenum Cat-5 multipair inside plenum-rated interduct tubing. This was approved by the fire inspector, so we had a cost-effective method of dealing with the open-plenum design.
Another unusual feature of the facility is that the building that houses our STL and satellite dishes is physically a different building than our studios, and three stories higher. The dishes themselves rest on the top of an escalator room of the boardwalk parking garage. The design called for a small building or room to be built on the roof of the studio building to house any equipment we needed up there. The design was later changed to move the penthouse to the third level of the garage. We explored several options and finally arrived at using a Wheatstone Router in the main rack room linked to a Bridge Router Satellite cage in the penthouse two stories above via fiber cable. This allowed us to send and receive just about as much audio to and from the penthouse as we could possibly want, and as the old studio location had a history of lightning damage, this gave our new studios a degree of protection from lightning coming back from the STL equipment. We also decided on a fiber path for the satellite equipment as well, but rather than place the Starguide receivers in the penthouse, we decided to locate them in the rack room where they would be more accessible and use fiber to bring the RF down from the dishes. This was accomplished by using single-mode cable and Fibercom fiberoptic L-band transceivers. Other fiber devices were used to send the computer network to the penthouse for router control, and Internet access and RS-232 for data return from AP.
By early March I was convinced the March 15 date would not be met. Skyline communications had arrived and had begun pulling the trunk cables and the IT wiring. We had no windows, carpet, lights or security. Equipment was beginning to arrive but we had no good secure place to put the large items. By April 4, when Lightner Electronics arrived, we had windows but only temporary lighting. Gary Zocolo and I arrived on April 8 to assist with the furniture assembly and begin some of our prewire work. We still had no permanent lights, HVAC or substantial security. Meanwhile, equipment was arriving based on the initial March 15 date.
The furniture arrived a few days later, most of which was installed before we left for the NAB convention. The office furniture supplier also decided to bring all of the office chairs in; we're not really sure why. On my way to Las Vegas I received a phone call while at a layover in Atlanta. It was the local fire marshal requesting that we remove all of our furniture and equipment from the building, as there is no working sprinkler or alarm system in place. Not only did he need it removed, he wanted it done by 5 p.m. CDT. I received this call at 4 p.m. CDT. After a few tense minutes, we arrived at a compromise: all of the office chairs (which is what he was really concerned about) needed to be moved to the bathrooms, which had working sprinklers and alarms.
Finally, after the NAB convention and a few days rest to recover we returned to Bossier City. Still no lights or HVAC but we could lock the doors, so we began the integration portion of the project.
We used as many time-savers as possible. Broadcast Tools has a line of devices to interface with Starguide receivers. This greatly reduces the time spent in wiring them; no soldering DB connectors. These items combined with the significantly simplified wiring needed by taking advantage of the Bridge Router enabled us to have the facility ready to move-in in 4½ working weeks following our return from the NAB show. As a result we were ready to move the stations in over a three-day span in early June.
We did not make the grand opening of the Boardwalk on May 12, mainly because our building was simply not ready, but the shopping center opened with a lot of fanfare that included some great publicity for our stations. The new Cumulus Shreveport-Bossier City location is truly a showplace operation and a valued addition to the Louisiana Boardwalk. I am proud of the people involved and what we accomplished in the building of this outstanding broadcasting facility.
Supplee is regional engineering coordinator for Cumulus Media. He is based in Harrisburg, PA.
Air Corp Pro Announcer mic processors
ASI 5111 audio cards
ATI digital DA
Audioarts D75 consoles
Behringer Powerplay Pro headphone amp
Belden audio cable
Broadcast Tools COP and COA Starguide adapters, SMIII silence monitors, SS2.1 TERMIII switchers, AVR-8
Cybex KVM extender
Denon DNC680 CD players
Denon TIU1500RDP FM/AM tuners w/RDS
Dixon NM250 newsroom mixer
Ergotron 300 series video monitor arms
ETA rack-mount power strips
Furman Power Plus II power conditioners
Geffen USB extender
Gepco audio multi-, dual- and single-pair AES cable
HHB CDR830 Plus CD recorders
JBL 4410 studio monitors
Krone punch blocks
Leibert Master UPS
Lucid AD9624 A/D converters
Mackie M800 power amplifiers
Middle Atlantic racks and accessories
Minicom Phantom KVM switch
Neutrik ¼" connectors
OC White single and double joint mic arms
Radio Systems analog DA
Sage Endec EAS
Shure RE-20 microphones
Sony PCM R500 DAT recorder
Switchcraft XLR connectors
Telos 1, 1×6 and 2×12 telephone hybrids
Wheatstone Bridge router
Wheatstone Preference studio furniture