Site of the Week 3/9/12: Clear Channel Hudson Valley

If you bought a copy of the 2011 Tower Site Calendar, you’ve already seen one of the sites we saw during a whirlwind tour up and down the Hudson Valley back in June 2010. The historic and scenic tower farm atop Mount Beacon was on the cover of the calendar, and we’ve featured it here on Tower Site of the Week, too.

But we saw a lot more than just Mount Beacon in that three-day trip, including a whole slew of visits to Hudson Valley locations we’d only seen from the outside. Over the next few weeks, we’ll share pictures and stories from the region here, starting with the first location we visited after getting off the train in Poughkeepsie.

The last time we drove down Tucker Drive on the city’s east side, there was a ramshackle old studio building here, built for WKIP (1450) in its days as a standalone AM and then expanded and renovated several times for what grew into today’s Clear Channel cluster of three AMs and seven FMs up and down the valley.

Clear Channel's Poughkeepsie studios

Down the studio hallway

In 2004, Clear Channel built a new studio complex next to the old 1968-vintage WKIP building, following up two years later by demolishing the old building and adding on to the new one. The finished product is a rather sizable facility for a market this size. There’s a large sales and programming area on one side of the building, production studios at the rear, a rack room next to that, and then a long row of studios on the other side of the lobby.

The WBWZ studio

The WRNQ studio

A lot of what comes out of there these days is voicetracked, of course, but there are still local morning shows and several other local dayparts for the big FM stations here: country leader WRWD-FM (107.3 Highland), AC WRNQ (92.1 Poughkeepsie), top-40 WFKP (96.1 Poughkeepsie) and hot AC WBWZ (93.3 New Paltz). There’s also a studio for news-talk WKIP and its sister station in Ellenville, WKIP-FM (99.3), about which more in a moment.

The Clear Channel rack room

WKIP's transmitters

The WKIP transmitter building

There’s an impressive rack room here, too, from which at least some functions are handled for more Clear Channel stations based up the valley in Hudson: WHUC (1230 Hudson), WZCR (93.5 Hudson) and WCTW (98.5 Catskill).

(We’ll get a closer look at them later on in this series.)

Heading out back from the rack room, the WKIP transmitter is in a separate building at the rear of the property, where we find an old Harris MW1A for backup and a BE AM1A for the main, on either side of a Gates phasor.

A phasor? For a station on 1450? Yup…by day, WKIP is a rare two-tower directional on a “graveyard” channel, aiming most of its signal north. If memory serves, the directionality was put into place to avoid signal overlap with a co-owned station to the south, back in the days when the FCC allowed owners just one station on each band in a market. The original WKIP-FM, incidentally, was on 104.7; it was sold off to separate ownership in the early 1970s and is now WSPK, part of the crosstown Pamal cluster.

There’s also an FM backup site here, a frequency-agile transmitter that can serve as an auxiliary for any of the Poughkeepsie FMs.

WKIP's towers

WPKF 96.1

WRWD 1370

That’s Tucker Drive, but it’s not the only Clear Channel site in Poughkeepsie. Top-40 “Kiss FM” WPKF (96.1) transmits its class A signal from the top of a building at the Hudson River Psychiatric Center, though the photo you see here will soon be history, since the station has a construction permit to move to a higher antenna location on the center’s property.

Where are the other Clear Channel FMs? They’re up on Illinois Mountain in Highland, just across the Hudson River to the west, and we’ll see them in next week’s installment.

The 1370 transmitter building

The 1370 transmitters

WKIP-FM 99.3

And now that we’ve crossed the Hudson, let’s keep going westward up into the Catskills, to the village of Ellenville, 25 miles and an entire world away from the post-industrial grit of Poughkeepsie.

This was resort country up here, and the little AM/FM combo that used to be WELV (1370) and WELV-FM (99.3) has been all over the map in recent years as Clear Channel has tried to find a way to use these little signals to complement its bigger Hudson Valley signals.

The 99.3 transmitter building

When we visited in June 2010, 1370 had just recently flipped from news-talk WELG (paralleling WKIP) to country WRWD, simulcasting WRWD-FM, while 99.3 had flipped from country WRWC (simulcasting WRWD-FM) to news-talk WKIP-FM, simulcasting WKIP with some local news inserts.

And as we send this week’s Site of the Week out there, they’ve just flipped back – 99.3 is now WRWB-FM, simulcasting WRWD-FM, while 1370 is back to a WKIP simulcast. (In past years, 99.3 has also tried paralleling other Clear Channel sisters, including Kiss on 96.1, Lite on 92.1 and the old Thunder Country on 96.1 in Poughkeepsie and 93.5 up in Hudson.)

At the base of the 1370 tower

The 1370 site, a fairly simple 5 kW non-directional daytime facility, sits along the Fantine Kill creek just north of the village of Ellenville, tucked into the woods along Irish Cape Road. That’s a Harris MW5 for backup and a newer BE back in the shadows behind it, inside the tidy little elevated transmitter hut.

(Look very carefully on the right side of the transmitter photo above – and remember, you can always click on any photo in Tower Site of the Week to enlarge it – and you’ll see that I wasn’t the only one taking pictures that day. That’s the one and only Mike Fitzpatrick of NECRAT.us, where you can find many more pictures from this tour!)

The FM signal comes from a site called Sam’s Point, perched on the edge of the Catskills south of Ellenville, 2250 feet above sea level with a commanding line-of-sight view of the central Hudson Valley.

The 99.3 transmitters

WELV-LP 107.9

The old Sam's Point Long Lines tower

With 115 watts ERP at 1630′ AAT, 99.3 is the proverbial “mile-wide and inch-deep” class A FM signal, audible everywhere but not blastingly strong anywhere. It doesn’t take much to power that little signal: a pair of QEI 675T500 rack-mounted transmitters serve as main and aux.

Other broadcasters have found Sam’s Point to be a valuable site, too: that’s a little LPTV (W30AZ-D) tucked into the corner of the 99.3 transmitter building, and there’s a former telco microwave tower just down the road that hosts translators W243BZ (96.5, part of Albany’s WAMC network) and W289BE (105.7, relaying WVOS 95.9 Liberty). In the photo at left, W289BE is the gray Shively one-bay on the left side of the platform; W243BZ is on a pole on the other side of the platform.

There’s one more site to show you before we move along from Ellenville: the old WELV calls that used to be on 1370 and 99.3 now reside on a low-power FM. WELV-LP (107.9) belongs to the Ellenville Central School District and broadcasts from the high school in the middle of town.

Thanks to Bill Draper for the tours, and to Mike Fitzpatrick for the ride!

It’s not too late to order the all-new Tower Site Calendar 2012, still available from the all new Fybush.com store!

And don’t miss Hudson Valley IDs over at our sister site, TopHour.com!

Next week: Illinois Mountain, Highland/Poughkeepsie, NY, 2010