Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
In this bonus edition of Tower Site of the Week, originally published in 2008, we pick up on our 2007 "Big Trip," which t0ok us from Utah up through Idaho to Montana, westward to Spokane, then back to Boise and eventually back to Utah.
This installment finds us headed westward through Idaho on I-90, into the resort town of Coeur d'Alene, where we stopped briefly downtown to catch a glimpse of the "KXLY North Idaho Broadcast Center," home to a news bureau for Spokane's KXLY-TV and to studios for two stations KXLY owns over here on the Idaho side of the market, KVNI (1080) and KHTQ (94.5). Our destination, however, was the KXLY mothership studio another 20 miles west, on the north side of Spokane, where director of engineering Tim Anderson was waiting to give us a tour of that facility and of KXLY's AM transmitter site.
We'd seen both of those facilities from the outside during our 2006 Big Trip, as well as an unexpected inside visit to the KXLY-TV/FM site up on Mount Spokane, and after we'd put up those pictures, Tim invited us to see the rest. The big KXLY studio facility spreads out over two floors. Upstairs is a cluster of air and production studios for KXLY's FM signals, KZZU (92.9 Spokane) and KXLY-FM (99.9 Spokane); downstairs, there's a big newsroom that's open to the KXLY-TV studio, forming the backdrop for Channel 4's newscasts.
Alert viewers might notice the assignment desk way at the back of the newsroom shot, and really alert viewers might notice two radio studios flanking the desk back there. One is for KXLY's news-talk AM signal on 920, while the other is for KXLX (700 Airway Heights), the sports station in the cluster. (That studio even has TV cameras in it, so sports director Dennis Patchin's afternoon talk show can be simulcasted on KXLY-TV's sister station, KXMN-LP.)
After our studio tour and a pause for lunch, we follow Tim out to the south side of Spokane, into the Moran Prairie tower farm that so fascinated us back in 2006. At the time, we'd shot pictures of KXLY's majestic Art Deco transmitter building only from a distance, but this time we can get up close to the building, which was constructed in 1936-37 for KXLY's predecessor, KFPY. (Spokane radio historian Bill Harms has pictures of the building in its earliest years on his Spokane Radio History website.)
After decades as an exceedingly simple operation - 5000 watts, non-directional day and night - things got much busier here a few years ago. In 1998, KHDL (630 Opportunity) moved to this site from its longtime home in Spokane Valley, east of Spokane proper, diplexing into the 460-foot KXLY tower with a day power of 530 watts and a night power of 53 watts. (It soon became KXLI, then took its current calls, KTRW; it's now owned by local station owner Tom Read.)
In 2003, a new 360-foot tower went up next to the 1936 tower, allowing for yet a third station to come to this site. The former KMJY (700 Newport) moved about 50 miles south into the Spokane market, changing calls to KXLX, changing city of license to Airway Heights, and operating with 10 kW days from the big tower and 600 watts at night from both towers.
But wait - there's more! In 2004, KXLY increased its daytime power to 20 kW, still non-directional from the big tower day and night.
So, yes, that does mean there are three signals all sharing the big tower, and that means a big set of Kintronics ATUs and reject filters at the base of the tower to handle all the RF coming from the rows of transmitters in the newer addition to the 1936 transmitter building. It's quite the facility.
We'll be back on Friday with our regularly-scheduled Site of the Week, in lovely Danville, Illinois - and in the meantime, we're busy getting ready to ship the 2014 Tower Site Calendar. Read on for details on how to order yours!
Thanks to KXLY's Tim Anderson for the tour!
This year’s gorgeous electronic pinups include KXLY - plus the iconic towers of Catalina Island, a combiner system in St. Louis, the twin towers of KNRS in Salt Lake City, a historic rooftop site in Jamestown, New York and many more!
If you want a tower calendar on your wall NOW, you can pick up the current 2013 edition for just $5 with your 2014 order!
Click here to order your new calendar!
Then check out our store page for our other great merchandise, including the last-ever FM Atlas, the new NRC AM Log and a model of the KSAN tower.
Friday: Danville, Illinois, 2011