Sometimes, our travel for Tower Site of the Week doesn"t go well - connections are missed, engineers are deep in crisis mode, and we find ourselves leaving a market without having managed to see everything we came to visit.
But other times, everything clicks into place brilliantly - and so it was in April 2010, when a couple of days in Los Angeles yielded a series of nifty studio tours in quick succession, which we"re delighted to share with you in this installment.
Our visit had actually begun in the evening, when a drive down from Las Vegas deposited us in Anaheim, just down the block from Angels Stadium at just the right time for an early-season Angels-Twins game. For a ballpark that was built as a concrete multi-purpose monolith in the 1960s (and which is now, amazingly, the fourth-oldest active park in the major leagues), Angels Stadium has been nicely updated and it was a pleasure to spend a springtime southern California evening there. But we left the game without seeing one key part of the stadium, an omission we rectified the next morning: now that KRLD has moved out of the Ballpark at Arlington, Texas, we"re pretty sure Angels Stadium is the only major-league park that has its own radio station studios in-house.
KLAA (830 Orange) is owned by Angels owner Arte Moreno, and for the last few years he"s housed the station in the team"s office building down the first-base line. After flirting with Spanish-language programming, KLAA had become an English-language sports talker by 2010, and when we visited the station it had just entered a programming alliance with ESPN. The deal worked well for both sides: Moreno was able to land Angels broadcasts on ESPN"s KSPN (710 Los Angeles) to reach the northern half of the LA market where KLAA"s signal is weak at night, ESPN was able to clear national ESPN Radio programming on KLAA that was preempted by local shows on KSPN, and KLAA got that ESPN programming to help fill its daytime hours.
KLAA has a compact but functional studio complex here, with a large studio that"s primarily used for pre- and post-game shows. (The station"s flagship morning show, hosted by Roger Lodge, comes from a studio in Hollywood at KTLA-TV, where Lodge does morning sports updates.) But the most interesting part of the tour, by far, comes after we leave the KLAA studios and offices and walk across a skybridge to the stadium concourse, then up several levels to the broadcast booths. No worries here about a long backhaul from the booth to the control room - it"s all right here in the stadium complex!
So what about the other half of the unusual ESPN Radio alliance in LA? When last we saw KSPN, it was still tied into a larger Disney-owned radio cluster in town, housed out on the west side with KABC (790), KLOS (95.5) and Radio Disney outlet KDIS (1110) at the longtime KABC/KLOS studio complex on La Cienega Boulevard. But Disney"s sale of ABC Radio to Citadel meant Citadel ended up with the La Cienega facility, and it wasn"t long before ESPN was in search of a new home.
It found that home in downtown Los Angeles, of all places, at the "LA Live" complex that"s home to the Staples Center sports arena and to the West Coast headquarters of ESPN TV. But KSPN"s not in with the Worldwide Leader; instead, it"s in a separate building in the complex, tucked away on an upper floor. Starting from scratch gave KSPN the chance to build something fancy: the exterior walls of the studio core are clad in bright red sheathing (they actually went to an auto-paint shop to get the colors sufficiently intense!), and inside there are multiple studios outfitted with the latest SAS Rubicon consoles.
But as spiffy as these studios are, they weren"t even the only origination point for KSPN"s extensive local schedule when we stopped by in 2010.
Go back downstairs and across the LA Live complex and you"ll find yourself in front of one of the nation"s biggest ESPN Zone restaurants - and if you head inside, you"ll find another KSPN studio and control room tucked inside. At the time, this space was used for live origination of a midday talk show, though I believe it"s since been closed.
(The KSPN engineering team was very busy in 2009 and 2010 with not only the studio move, but also the reconstruction of the transmitter site in the San Fernando Valley, which you can see in an earlier Site of the Week installment, here.)
But our KSPN visit was actually the end of a very busy day that had started with the KRLA transmitter/Salem studio tour (chronicled here) and then continued with another stop in Glendale at Univision Radio"s spacious 25th floor studios, high atop the office building at 655 N. Central Avenue. One of the nation"s biggest Spanish-language radio clusters, this group occupies the entire floor, and our tour guide this day is none other than broadcast historian extraordinaire David Gleason, who was then a senior executive with Univision. (He"s since departed the group and is now busy building a massive online radio library over at AmericanRadioHistory.com...check it out!)
The lobby here is indelibly branded with this cluster"s former identity, since the old "HBC" (Hispanic Broadcasting Company) logo is part of the elaborate metal gate next to the reception desk. Beyond it, the cluster"s studios spread out down several hallways. There"s a spacious studio for KLVE (107.5), the original "K-Love" that was using that name in Spanish before EMF Broadcasting was doing it in English, and down the hall is one of the few studios we"ve ever seen dedicated to an HD subchannel, KLVE"s "Amor Celestial" Spanish religious HD-2.
Another spacious room houses "Recuerdo," the Spanish oldies format heard locally on KRCV (98.3 West Covina) and KRCD (103.9 Inglewood) - but the most impressive room in the building is part of a studio complex stretching down the hall across from the rack room. KSCA (101.9 Glendale) is the highest-rated signal in the cluster, and it has separate studios for the station itself (which we didn"t see) and for the syndicated "Piolin" morning show that"s based here. Click on that photo above at right to enlarge it - this room is packed solid with positions for the show"s large cast and with lighting for the show"s TV appearances, which are frequent.
And there"s an AM here as well: KTNQ (1020) is tucked into a corner, where it programs a Spanish-language news and talk format.
We"re not anywhere close to done with this LA visit - c"mon back next week to see some of the transmitter sites we saw as part of these jam-packed days!
Thanks to KLAA"s Paul Sakrison, KSPN"s Mike Tosch and Univision"s David Gleason and Tom Koza for the tours!
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Next week: Still more Los Angeles, 2010