When it's time to move
Apr 1, 2007 12:00 PM, by Chriss Scherer, editor
Building a new facility to house multiple stations seems to be a normal part of radio operations today. Several years after the consolidation frenzy, many stations believe that the industry has settled, and they are now turning their attention to maximizing their own facilities. The Entercom cluster in Kansas City began making plans to do this several years ago, and the results of those efforts are finally seeing fruition.
Nate Johnson of Lightner Electronics makes some final checks in Edit 1, one of the production studios.
The studios for KQRC-FM (The Rock) were the first to be completed. This is also the largest FM air studio.
The KMBZ talk studio (left) is a large room that can accomodate at least eight people.
KMBZ control (below) is also a spacious room. The studios for KCSP are a mirror image.
Each station''s production studio is centered around a small console. This is the production studio for KMBZ.
The exterior of the facility. All but one of the air studios are situated along the top floor windows.
All the FM air studios have similar layouts. This is the KUDL air studio.
Edit 2 is another smaller production studio located on the second floor.
Before moving into their new location, the eight stations owned by Entercom occupied a building full of history in Westwood, KS, a suburb of Kansas City. The building, originally built in the 1920s as the transmitter site for what is now KMBZ-AM, grew with the trends of radio broadcast ownership. In 1968 the building was expanded to house the studios of KMBZ-AM and KMBR-FM (now KYYS). It was added to again in 1995 when Entercom began operating nine stations from it.
The building was at its limits, and the parking lot had been extended as much as it could. There still wasn't enough room. Furthermore, the studio facility was in the center of a residential neighborhood, and the constant needs of a business were straining the relationship between Entercom and the community around the facility.
In 1999, Entercom purchased the Sinclair stations, and the research began to build yet another addition. That never materialized because of the projected cost, and instead, attention turned to acquiring a new building. Several years later in 2004, and after four or five possible new sites were considered, a purchase agreement was signed to buy the building that houses the stations now. In 2005, the work began to strip the interior and commence construction on the building on Squibb Road.
The Squibb Rd. building at one time housed the headquarters of the now-defunct Vanguard Airlines. The three-story building is significantly larger than the previous facility, and Entercom only occupies two of the three floors. Entercom is currently seeking a tenant for the first floor. Located at one of the major crossroads in Johnson County, the new location provides the station with an easy-to-find and accessible address.
The work begins
One added benefit to the selected building is that a monopole tower was already in place on the site. This meant that permits for a tower for the station's own use would be simplified, and the existing monopole user leases land on the property (the tower is owned by its tenants), which would provide instant revenue.
The internal building construction and renovation had some difficulties from the start, which delayed the project. A major delay was related to structural improvements to the building to support the roof-mounted air handlers. Once the unforeseen structural problems were resolved, the construction work began.
The renovation of the exterior was completed in February 2005, and the interior construction began shortly thereafter. Once the walls were in place, the studio work began. The sales staff moved in on Feb. 25, 2006, while traffic, accounting and management moved in on March 10, 2006. The first station on the air from the new facility was KQRC on July 16, 2006. The other FMs were added about one every four weeks after that. KMBZ-AM and KCSP-AM, with their news, talk and sports focus, took a little longer.
The on-air operations occupy the third floor, and the business operations occupy the second floor. The three main production studios are on the second floor and are adjacent to the main lobby. The lobby area is open to the third floor, and visitors can look up to see the on-air studio for WDAF.
The air studios are along the south wall of the building except for the air studio for KXTR, which is on the north side. Each FM has an air studio and a production studio that, for the most part, face each other. KQRC also has a producer/screener studio, and KUDL also has a news booth.
The studios for KCSP and KMBZ are almost mirrors of each other. Both have a large control room, a talk studio that can easily house six or more guests and a small production studio. The newsroom is next to the AM studios and sits in the inner core of the building.
Offices for each station's programming staff are housed near their corresponding studios. There are also offices for morning shows and jock prep areas.
Master Control is centrally located around the studios and houses two rows of racks for everything except the RF systems. A separate room houses four racks for the RF equipment. This room is adjacent to the tower to reduce the RF cable needs. The room location was also chosen for RF because it's easier to route audio and data wire than coaxial cable.
Entercom has an engineering staff of five people. Mike Cooney is the director of engineering/IT and oversees the staff. Ken Wolf is the chief engineer, Kirk Chestnut and John Morris are staff engineers, and Fred Suhr is the IT manager. With the complexities of running stations that have active programming formats, the task of maintaining the existing facilities while simultaneously building new ones was overwhelming. To get the process started, Cooney hired some outside help.
Allegiant Technologies ran all the wiring. Once the backbone was in place, interconnections and studio assembly began.
For the next step, Lightner Electronics was contracted to handle the integration. With a crew led by Steve Koehle, the equipment was installed and programmed, and the physical assembly of the studios began.
Digital by design
Where possible, the facility is digital. The main signal routing is handled by the Wheatstone Wheatnet router, and the BE Audiovault handles the bulk of the audio playback. This centralized approach greatly simplified the overall signal flow for all the stations. Every source is available at every destination (where it's allowed). Of course, with the convenience comes the need to be more attentive in the setup. IP addresses, source naming and cable identification are extremely important.
The digital path is also maintained to the transmitter sites when possible. The FM stations primarily use two shared transmitter sites, and a third site serves as a single-use backup for any of the stations. The BE Big Pipe is configured to provide a ring between the studios and two main transmitter sites to provide added redundancy in case of a failure of one of the paths. The previously owned STL equipment is also in place for backup.
Like any good facility design, there's lots of backup. The Wheatstone router is configured to distribute station sources between multiple frames so that if there is a failure in one frame, the station still has audio. The router itself also has a backup controller. The Audiovault servers are also configured in a main and backup server configuration, and the RAID array is dispersed over several systems.
As a last-step studio failure backup, each station has a direct-wired feed of each studio console, its automation system output and any other needed audio feeds into a Whirlwind mixer. This mix is fed to a jack panel in the RF room so that it can be patched directly into an STL if needed.
It's unlikely that any studio construction project is completed without a hitch, and the Entercom Kansas City project fits easily into this generalization. The construction project is in its final stages and the last station, KXTR, is due to move in during the spring. Then the attention will turn to clearing out the old studio building for a new tenant. The history of the former studio location is not completely lost. The transmitter for KMBZ is still located there.
Meet the stations
There are five FMs and three AMs in the group
KQRC-FM - The Rock
Kansas City's Rock Station
KRBZ-FM - The Buzz
Adult Contempory/Soft Rock
KYYS-FM - 99-7 KY
WDAF-FM - The Wolf
KCSP-AM - 61 Sports
KMBZ-AM - News Radio 980
News, Talk and Sports
Classical . All the FMs transmit HD Radio signals and carry HD-2 Streams
KQRC-HD2 - Live Rock
KRBZ-HD2 - Comedy
KUDL-HD2 - Classical
KYYS-HD2 - Subterranean - Deep Tracks
WDAF-HD2 - Smooth Jazz
360 Systems Instant Replay
APC monitor/keyboard drawers
Audemat-Aztec Goldeneagle HD FM
Audio Labs Voxpro
BE Audiovault, News Boss
Broadcast Tools Silence Monitor III
CBT Systems Classic on-air lights
Dixon NM-250 MKII
Furman Plug Blocks
Gefen KVM stuff
Gepco DS601, DS624, DS608, DS401, MP1022
Harris World Feed panels, Intraplex STL Plus
Henry Engineering Matchbox HD, Twinmatch HD
JK Audio Auto Hybrid KRK V8 Series II, V6 Series II
Krone punch blocks
Lightner Electronics Integration services
LPB Silent Mic Booms
Lucid Genx 6-96
Marantz PMD 325 (CD)
Middle Atlantic PD-1415C-NS power strips
Neutrik NP3C, NC-3MX, NC-3FX
O.C. White mic booms and risers
Primex Wireless clocks
RDL TX-LM2, STD-10K, ST-SH2, DRA-35T
Sony MDS-E11, MDS-E12
Superior Essex 52-241 CAT-5e cable
Tascam 112 MKII, CDRW-2000
Telos 2�12, One, Zephyr Xstream
Tieline Commander G3
Wheatstone 1202A, Gen 3, Gen 5, Gen 6, Gen 8, Wheatnet 4864, Bridge router
The little touches
Every facility has its own unique nuances that make it special. The emergency audio path with the Whirlwind mixers is one example. These small touches are incorporated to accomplish a specific purpose, and they often go unnoticed. Here are some that stand out.
Table-top speaker mounts
The KRK speakers are mounted on risers to place them in the sweet spot. The risers are actually left over PVC pipe that was spray painted black. All thread runs through the countertop into the speaker.
Self-laminating label sheets were printed in an inkjet printer and applied to the cables. These do not require a heat shrink cover, so labels can be easily updated if changes are made.
Front-panel adjustments on the distribution amps have no provision for labels. Instead of writing on the equipment, which looks tacky, a self-adhesive plastic labeling strip with an inserted paper legend is used. The strips are available from Uline, Slip Strip or Holdex.