October 17-24, 2001

The Big Travelogue: Part Eight

There's 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...

Click here for part one

Click here for part two

Click here for part three

Click here for part four

Click here for part five

Click here for part six

Click 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!

Approaching 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.

Saturday, 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...)

Among the stations in this building: KLIN (a news-talker), country "Froggy" KFGE (98.1), oldies KKUL (105.3), and KEZG (107.3).

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 station. Wow!

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.

Sunday, 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 Channel cluster.

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!

Heading 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 parking lot!

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 sites.

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!