Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
As longtime readers of this column know, we go to Las Vegas once and only once every year: in April for the NAB Show. It's a nice time to be in town, usually, but it has one big drawback - all of Las Vegas' own engineers tend to be incredibly busy, which makes it hard to get in for station tours when we have some free time away from the show.
So this year, we tried something a little different - we flew to Vegas more than a week before the show started, then headed out of town and came back for the main event. And guess what? The week before NAB, the local engineers have a little more time to show us around.
After an early-morning flight and a visit to the Atomic Testing Museum (highly recommended!), our tour agenda started in Henderson at the studios of KVVU (Channel 5), the Meredith-owned Fox affiliate that sits, rather conveniently, at the end of "TV5 Drive."
Channel 5 signed on in 1967 from a different Henderson location (a converted gas station) as independent KHBV; at one time, it was owned by Johnny Carson. It's been in its present spot off Sunset Road since the early 1990s, a low-slung building that opens from a lobby into an interior courtyard that doubles as a cooking studio, with a very nice built-in kitchen island.
Head in one direction down the hallway from the atrium and you'll come to the studios where KVVU does its midmorning "More" lifestyle show. In addition to the Vegas-glitzy main studio, there's a green room - er, "G-Room" - that's filled with games to entertain guests, as well as a really nifty upstairs music loft for visiting performers. (And there are lots of those in Vegas, of course.)
The newsroom sits toward the back of the building, next to a spacious garage/scene shop. KVVU has massively increased its news presence in recent years, including a morning show that runs until 9 and an extensive evening schedule that makes it more than competitive with the more-established "big 3" in town.
Way on the other end of town - a half-hour's drive from east to west along the 215 beltway - our next stop this cloudy April afternoon is out at Beasley's relatively new studio complex on South Durango, just north of Desert Inn a few long miles west of the Strip.
After a few moments' gazing on the nifty mural that dominates the lobby, we head upstairs to the studios that form a U around the rack room next to the elevator.
There's a conference room/performance studio up here for (again) those visiting artists, anchoring one end of the "U." Classic rocker KKLZ (96.3) holds down a corner, with classic R&B KOAS (105.7) midway down the hallway and country KCYE (102.7) at the other corner.
At the other corner of the "U," toward the back of the building, top-40 KVGS (Star 107.9) has another spacious studio.
Round that corner and the studios of the 50,000-watt news-talker KDWN (720) line the back wall of the building, across the hall from a newsroom.
It's a long way from the last time we'd seen KDWN studios, a decade earlier (almost to the day) in the waning days of the station's independent ownership when it was downtown in the ragged old Plaza Hotel.
And we finish off our "free day" in Las Vegas with yet another half-hour drive across the sprawling metropolis, up to the KXST (1140) site up by Nellis Air Force Base at the northeastern corner of town.
Last year, we saw the work that CBS Radio's engineering team was doing up there to add a four-station FM backup facility as well as to add KXNT (840) to the site. There wasn't too much new to show you at that site this year (most of the hard work was taking place behind the scenes, and we're hoping to have some nifty new pictures of the finished ten-tower plant here next year.
But in the meantime, we got another treat before heading out of Vegas - a drive north to the remote spot where US 93 meets I-95, up beyond the northern end of Vegas' sprawl. That's where KXNT has its current five-tower facility, and where we get our first (and last) look inside before it goes away and moves to the KXST site.
There's already one transmitter gone from here, relocated down to the KXST site - and that leaves some hanging transmission lines in front of the phasor and the remaining DX50 that's keeping KXNT on the air out here until the end of this site out at the end of the lonely highway.
Thanks to KVVU's Mark Guralnik, Beasley's Steve Griesbach and KXNT's Tony Dinkel for the tours!
WHAT'S ON THE 2017 TOWER SITE CALENDAR COVER?
That's for YOU to decide.
We have so many beautiful photos set for the 2017 Tower Site Calendar. Several of them would make great covers. So this year, we want your input!
Send your vote to Lisa by 11:59 PM on September 30. Everyone who votes receives a coupon for $1 off anything in our store and be entered in our drawing for a free 2017 calendar.
And don’t miss a big batch of Vegas IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Los Angeles, 2016