October 17-24, 2001
The Big Travelogue: Part Eight
nothing like a good road trip to get a feel for the state of
radio these days. From June 23 until July 7, your editor (accompanied
by Boston Radio Archives creator Garrett Wollman) hit the road
to see what's on - and in - the air across a broad swath of mid-America.
For the next few installments of Site of the Week, we'll be
recapping the many highlights of what we like to think of as
The Big Trip, 2001 edition. Come along...
here for part one
here for part two
here for part three
here for part four
here for part five
here for part six
here for part seven
Friday, June 29 - We're approaching the halfway mark
in our long journey across the country. After an exciting morning
in Yankton, S.D. (see part seven) and some brief stops in Norfolk
and West Point, Nebraska, we pass the outskirts of Fremont and
begin to traverse the outer suburbia of Omaha.
Our goal is to arrive on North 72nd Street, home to most of
Omaha's TV and FM dial, and we make it in late afternoon, under
heavy skies that threaten rain. From a distance, this tower farm
looks almost like a huge AM array, but these three towers are
each well over a thousand feet tall!
from the north, the first tower we pass is that of WOWT (Channel
6), the NBC affiliate once known as WOW-TV. It leases tower space
to KEZO (92.3, the former WOW-FM) and newer FMs KXKT (103.7,
a move-in from Iowa) and KIWR (89.7, licensed across the river
in Council Bluffs, Iowa).
Next door to the south, behind the common fence that encloses
the entire farm, is KETV (Channel 7), the ABC affiliate, sharing
tower space with public radio KVNO (90.7). South of that tower
is the KMTV (Channel 3) stick, shared with KQKQ (98.5), KGOR
(99.9) and KSRZ (104.5).
A fourth tower, south of KMTV, is used solely by FM stations
KTNP (93.3), KMXM (94.1) and an auxiliary antenna for KKCD (105.9).
From here, with the weather worsening, we head into downtown
Omaha, where your editor will spend the weekend attending a wedding,
while Garrett returns to South Dakota for more radio travel fun.
June 30 - We still manage to get some travel in, with a side
trip to Lincoln, the state capital some 70 miles to the west.
Nebraska's state capital is interesting for two reasons: first,
it's an imposing Art Deco-style tower built at the height of
that architectural movement in the thirties; second, because
Nebraska is the only state in the union with a unicameral legislature.
This building does have a Senate chamber, but it's now used
purely for ceremonial functions.
Heading out of downtown, we're bound for the corner of 40th
and "W" Streets, where the studios of KOLN-TV (Channel
10), the CBS affiliate, sit across from a tower that's home to
KLIN (1400), KFOR (1240), KKUL (105.3) and KFRX (102.7).
A studio building a few blocks away, at 43rd and O, is home
to a large cluster of Lincoln radio stations, identified by a
rotating sign outside. (From the looks of the building, we suspect
it might once have been a funeral parlor, reminiscent of the
Cumulus cluster we'd seen earlier in the week in Davenport, Iowa...)
the stations in this building: KLIN (a news-talker), country
"Froggy" KFGE (98.1), oldies KKUL (105.3), and KEZG
We didn't make it out two other big studio complexes, one
out on Antelope Creek Road and the other on Van Dorn Street,
that house more clusters of Lincoln radio, alas, nor did we make
it to the studios of KLKN (Channel 8), the ABC affiliate that
was a recent move-in from distant Albion, Nebraska.
(Lincoln is part of the Hastings-Lincoln-Grand Island TV market,
a strange beast that has little basis in TV reality. Hastings
and Grand Island are another 80 miles or so to the west, and
while they share a common CBS affiliate, thanks to a KOLN relay
in Grand Island, there are separate ABC and NBC affiliates out
in Hastings/Grand Island/Kearney, while Lincoln gets ABC on KLKN
and NBC from Omaha's WOWT.)
Our last Lincoln
tower stop is out to the east of town, at 98th and A, where we're
surprised to find eight towers for KLMS (1480), an all-sports
Heading back into town, we turn up 33rd Street to check out
the huge brick monolith that's home to Nebraska Educational TV,
with its flagship here in Lincoln at KUON-TV (Channel 12).
A few bits of useless Nebraska Educational TV trivia: Channel
12 was KOLN's original home; it ended up in the hands of the
University of Nebraska when KOLN's owner bought competitor KLIN-TV
and took over its spot on channel 10.
The second bit of
trivia comes from the mid-seventies, when NBC proudly spent lots
of money developing a nifty new logo featuring a stylized red
and blue "N" - only to find that the image they'd spent
all that money developing had been in use for several years out
here at KUON, which had spent all of $100 to create it!
A settlement was soon reached, and NETV began using a lower-case
N that's still in use today.
On the way back east along I-80, we stop midway to Omaha to
see the tall towers that are home to Omaha's Fox and WB affiliates
(KPTM Channel 42 and KXVO Channel 15) and to KEFM (96.1) and
KGBI (100.7) as well.
July 1 - Wedding day, yes, but there's still time for a few
in-city stops. KFAB (1110) is the 50,000 watt giant of Omaha
radio, and it's been broadcasting for decades from this building
at 51st and Underwood, now shared by the rest of Omaha's Clear
A block away, the very large Waitt Radio cluster has moved
into its new home at 50th and Dodge (the entrance is actually
on Capitol, a block north).
This building is home to KOIL (1180), KKAR (1290), KAZP (1620),
KQKQ (98.5), KZFX (101.9, actually licensed to Lincoln), and
KCTY (106.9), all represented in signage out front. Quite a nice
view as we drive down Dodge!
north on 72nd, we approach the tower farm by way of the new Journal
Broadcast Group studios, recently moved north from 90th and Dodge.
This cluster includes the former WOW (590), inexplicably renamed
KOMJ ("Magic 590"), as well as KMXM (94.1).
Near the TV and FM farm are two nondescript one-tower AM sites,
both richer in history than in visual appeal.
Closest to the tower farm is KCRO (660), the daytimer that
was once known as KOWH. Under those calls (which originally stood
for the Omaha World-Herald newspaper), this was Todd Storz'
very first top-40 radio stations, one of the birthplaces of the
format in the late fifties. Today, KCRO does Christian radio
from its studios at 36th and Dodge. The other single stick is
that 590 signal that was WOW for almost eight decades before
changing calls last year.
Also on the north
side of town, on 52nd Street a couple of miles north of Dodge,
is the self-supporting tower of public radio KIOS (91.5), owned
by the Omaha Public Schools and operating from a high school
Dodge Street itself is home to plenty more radio and TV; at
70th Street is the studio of stand-alone KEFM (96.1), and we
can remember when the 1420/104.5 combination, then known as KESY,
was just a block away. (Today those stations, KBBX and KSRZ respectively,
are part of the Journal Broadcast Group and housed in the cluster's
main facility on John Galt Boulevard far out on the western edge
of town, with KEZO, KKCD, KQCH (97.7) and KOSR (1490)).
A few blocks east of KEFM is the University of Nebraska-Omaha
campus, crowned by a self-supporter that's home to KYNE (Channel
26), the local outlet of Nebraska ETV.
A block south of Dodge, at 46th and Farnam, is the Pappas
Telecasting facility that's home to KPTM and KXVO (KPTM was alone
here when we visited in 1993). Eleven blocks east, another self-supporting
tower announces the home of Omaha's NBC affiliate.
The building at 3625
Farnam was once home to WOW radio and television, and remained
with Channel 6 when it was sold off to become WOWT.
As a relic of history, the tower out back carries auxiliary
sites for not only WOWT itself but also for KEZO (92.3), the
erstwhile WOW-FM. Both stations, as noted above, share WOWT's
new tower up at the 72nd Street farm, as well.
(KEZO is a frequent summertime e-skip visitor to our home
base in upstate New York; its hard rock format and "Z92"
IDs are easy to recognize whenever it pops up!)
Under another big
self-supporter just across I-480 is the studio of KETV, the ABC
affiliate at 27th and Douglas.
It, in turn, sits just a block or so away from still another
self-supporter, the former home of KMTV (Channel 3). The CBS
affiliate moved its studios out of downtown around the same time
it moved its transmitter up to 72nd Street; it's now near the
Journal cluster out west of town, at 108th and Mockingbird.
We make a quick dash across the Missouri River under rainy
skies to take in three AM sites on the Iowa side: KOIL (1180)
transmits Radio Disney from three towers on Sunnydale Road, northeast
of Council Bluffs, while the two towers of Spanish KBBX (1420)
sit just south of the one tower of gospel KLNG (1560) just off
US 275, just east of the bridge to Omaha. (KOIL is licensed to
Bellevue, NE, south of Omaha, while KLNG is licensed to Council
Bluffs and KBBX to Omaha.)
Monday, July 2
- Garrett's back from his long weekend trip, all the way
to Rapid City, S.D. and back, and we're reunited to continue
our joint journey, beginning with the remainder of the Omaha
First up, a single stick at 36th and Gold, home to KOSR (1490),
the Fox Sports affiliate, then down S. 60th Street to its end
at Harrison, where we find an attractive three-tower array.
Today, the AM 1290 facility is known as KKAR, but that's a
recent call change. For decades, this was KOIL, the station that
took on the top-40 mantle in town when KOWH faded (with a brief
hiccup in the late-seventies when billing and contest irregularities
caused KOIL's then-owners to lose all their licenses!)
The KKAR calls and talk format originated with the Bellevue
1180 when it signed on in the early nineties; later on, KKAR
moved to 1290 and the KOIL calls went to 1180 as Radio Disney.
This site is also home to KAZP on 1620, the X-band ESPN Radio
outlet that began as an offspring of 1180.
And it turns out,
as the clouds disappear towards late morning, that we've managed
to save the best for last.
Southeast of the town of Papillion, some 20 miles south of
Omaha in Sarpy County, we come to Capehart Road and S. 60th:
the four towers of KFAB itself.
It's a nice looking site, especially with that one self-supporter
amidst the guyed, top-hatted sticks. It turns out that, had we
seen an engineer around, we could have seen a new transmitter
being installed inside this old building. (A fellow DXer picked
the right time to drive by later in the summer and was treated
to the grand tour...)
From here, it's off to Shenandoah, Iowa, and then to Missouri
and Kansas - but that, dear readers, will have to wait for next
week and Part Nine...
Meanwhile...you can enjoy that lovely KFAB view and
eleven more favorites from Tower Site of the Week all year long,
if you order the Tower Site 2002 Calendar! This full-color,
8.5-by-11 inch, glossy calendar features a dozen exciting tower
images, and it can be on your wall for just $15, postpaid! (NY
residents include sales tax; US$20 postpaid to Canada).
You can have yours for the holidays - but you need to order
now. We'll print only enough copies to fill orders received by
October 29, so don't delay. Send your check or money order,
payable to Scott Fybush (that's me), to 92 Bonnie Brae
Ave., Rochester NY 14618.
Your purchase of a calendar helps keep Site of the Week coming
all year round...thank you!