July 1, 2005

WOKQ/WPKQ/"Shark" Studios, Dover, N.H.


It's always nice to visit a radio station that's known for being both community-focused and successful - and even nicer to visit one in nice new studios. Actually, it's been more than five years since WOKQ (97.5 Dover NH) and its sister stations WPKQ (103.7 North Conway NH), WSHK (105.3 Kittery ME) and WSAK (102.1 Hampton NH) built their new facility on Middle Road in Dover, but June 2005 was the first chance we'd had to get up there, and with a barbecue to welcome us, no less!

(In fairness, the stations have a staff cookout every Friday when the weather's nice - but still, food is always welcome when tower- and studio-hunting...)

The stations didn't have to move very far to occupy their new building in 1999; it went up right next door to the original WOKQ studio/transmitter building, a little one-story structure that was built in 1970 for what was then WDNH-FM and underwent several expansions over the years, never quite getting big enough to handle all the needs of these stations.

That's not a problem in the new place. Walk in the front door of the "Bob Fuller Media Center" (named for "Doc" Fuller, who owned the stations with J.J. Jeffrey until selling them to Citadel a few years back) and you're looking at a row of windows that look into spacious studios. On the left side is the main air studio for "The Shark," the classic rock simulcast on 102.1 and 105.3. Follow the corridor around that side of the building, and a door opens into the Shark's studio cluster, which includes a pair of production rooms as well as the main air studio. That side of the building also leads back to the general manager's office, where we're welcomed warmly by VP/GM Marty Lessard. The sales offices are at the back of the building, and as you come around the other side of the building, back towards the lobby, you pass the jock lounges, the programming offices (including that of our friendly host, WOKQ morning man/operations manager Mark Ericson) and the other side of the studio cluster.

There's a spacious engineering area back here, as well as plenty of production studios (there's room, in fact, for another station should the opportunity arise) and a nifty studio/conference room right at the center of the studio cluster that looks into most of the rest of the studios, including the WOKQ/WPKQ air studio, the Shark air studio and the newsroom. It can be used for public affairs shows, interviews, and even live performances, and we suspect many bigger-market stations would love to have such a versatile facility.

This part of the building also includes something that fewer and fewer FM stations have these days - a full newsroom, where there's local news being gathered and reported even long after morning drive has ended.

It's not that the Seacoast has no AM news station - WTSN (1270) is just down the street and does a very capable job, especially where the Dover-Durham-Rochester area is concerned, and WGIN (930 Rochester)/WGIP (1540 Exeter) relay WGIR (610) from Manchester - but WOKQ has built a well-deserved reputation for adding lots of service elements to its country format, and its big signal doesn't hurt, either.

All the way back towards the front of the building, we come to the WOKQ/WPKQ studio, which is big enough to hold an entire morning show (including some comfy chairs that are just out of frame at left, under a cool neon sign.)

Look carefully to the right of the console - those two monitors are for two separate automation systems, one running the "mother ship" on 97.5 and the other handling the separate ad inventory and liners for WPKQ, the huge relay signal from Mount Washington that covers most of northern New Hampshire and big chunks of southern Maine and even Vermont and Quebec. (There's a farmer in rural Quebec whose calls have become a regular feature of the morning show!)

WPKQ maintains a sales facility/"main studio" in North Conway, and during ski season the morning show sometimes goes on the road up there. Most of the time, though, the WPKQ spots and liners are fired from here - and that means all the elements on both stations have to be (and are) timed out to a fraction of a second to match up properly.

Between the two signals (three, actually, if you count potent Manchester translator W250AB on 97.9), WOKQ/WPKQ reaches more of New Hampshire than any other radio stations, and it shows in the ratings.

It's a nice place to do radio - and the transmitters aren't bad, either.

In next week's installment, we'll see what's still lurking in the old building out back, and then head up to WOKQ's "new" transmitter site. And in the next few weeks, we'll complete our swing through New Hampshire with visits to some other neat community-oriented stations. Stay tuned, and have a great holiday weekend, whether it's Canada Day or Independence Day!

It's here - the 2005 Tower Site Calendar is now available at special clearance prices! Click here for ordering information!