April 20, 2007
The Big Trip 2006, Part XI: Yakima, Washington
Once every year or so, when finances and schedules permit, your editor and a couple of his similarly-obsessed radio pals get together to spend a week or so exploring a corner of our great nation, packing our schedules as full as possible to visit as many interesting broadcast facilities as we can.
And then, a few months later, once we've caught our breath (and some much-needed sleep), we share it all with you here on Tower Site of the Week (and in audio form over on Tophour.com) in a feature we call "The Big Trip."
The 2006 version of the Big Trip began and ended in Seattle, and along the way took us as far south as Eugene, Oregon and as far east as Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
Day Eight - Thursday, September 28
Our little crew pulled into Yakima on Wednesday night at the end of a very long day that had taken us all the way from Idaho past the Grand Coulee Dam and George, Washington, so it was dark by the time we arrived at our hotel in the Fruitvale neighborhood on Yakima's northwest side.
After heading downtown for dinner at a very nice restaurant in the city's converted former train station, we called it a night - and awoke the next morning to discover that we didn't even need to get in the Big Trip-mobile to visit our first stop, since our hotel's parking lot backed right up to the office park that's home to the studios of New Northwest Broadcasters' Yakima stations - talker KBBO (980 Selah, which goes by "K-USA"), sports KJOX (1390), top 40 "Hot 99.7" KHHK, oldies "Cherry FM" KARY (100.9 Grandview), country KXDD (104.1) and adult hits "Bob" KRSE (105.7).
It's a short drive south on 40th Avenue from here to the other radio cluster in town - Clear Channel, at 4010 Summitview Ave. (shown down the page a bit), home to news-talk KIT (1280), classic country KUTI (1460), country "Bull" KDBL (92.9 Toppenish), rock KATS (94.5), classic hits "Hawk" KQSN (99.3 Naches, which flipped to Spanish oldies "La Preciosa" just a week later) and top 40 KFFM (107.3).
Heading east and south through the regular grid of streets on Yakima's west side, we're soon down near the Yakima airport at the southern end of 24th Avenue, where two TV stations are next-door neighbors. That's ABC affiliate KAPP (Channel 35) on the left, at 1610 S. 24th, and NBC affiliate KNDO (Channel 23) on the right, at 1608 S. 24th, and no, I have no idea how they ended up right next to each other, except to note that KNDO was there first. (These stations, as noted in our Tri-Cities visit, operate in tandem with sister stations over in the Tri-Cities market 60 miles away, with much of their daily news product simulcast in both areas, which form one big TV market for Arbitron purposes.)
(I have subsequently been informed by a former Yakima engineer that KNDO moved out here in the late sixties from its original downtown studios; KAPP then signed on from those former KNDO studios in 1970 before moving to its current building, which had been a data-processing center. The move displeased KNDO management, but reportedly made it very easy to exchange commercial dubs and such!)
A quick bit of Yakima TV history before we continue: channel 23 was originally KIT-TV, a construction permit issued in 1953 but never built. KNDO came on in 1959, originally at a downtown studio location at 23 S. First Street.
Up the dial, KAPP came along in 1970, giving Yakima affiliates of all three networks. (Until that point, KNDO had been an NBC/ABC dual affiliate, and I'll bet Seattle's KOMO was on cable, too, for full-time ABC service.)
Another short drive to the east (and a few blocks north) brings us to a Yakima public school campus, home of student-run rock station KYVT (88.5) and of the local studios of PBS outlet KYVE (Channel 47), which signed on in 1962 as a locally-run station operated by the Yakima schools, but is now operated by Seattle's KCTS, mostly as a simulcast of that signal, with a few locally-produced shows inserted into the schedule.
Our last stop before crossing the Yakima River is on West Washington Ave., south of downtown and right next to the railroad tracks that divide the city into east and west.
It's here that we find the self-supporting tower and small transmitter building of KIT (1280), the city's oldest radio station, which signed on in 1929 and built this site way back in 1937, seven years before the city's next station, KIMA (1460) would sign on. Today, it sits in a field accessed from a narrow road next to an auto-repair shop on Washington Ave.
Just a couple of miles to the east (though it's a longer drive up to Route 24 and across I-82 and the Yakima River), Riverside Road takes us past the transmitter sites of three Yakima-market AMs. At the south end of Riverside, where it intersects Bell Road, we find the two-tower array of the station once known as KIMA. It's now KUTI, running 5 kW days, 3.7 kW nights, DA-N from this site, which dates only to 1990 or thereabouts. Just to the north is a three-tower array shared by KJOX (1390) and Spanish-language KYXE (1020 Union Gap). KJOX uses two towers by day with 5 kW and a different array of two towers at night with 390 watts; KYXE uses two towers by day with 4 kW and goes non-directional at night with 400 watts.
Looking south from these sites, we get a nice view up to Ahtanum Ridge, where Yakima's TV stations have all had their towers pretty much from the beginning of TV here back in the fifties. I'm pretty sure that cluster of three towers in the middle of the picture is KNDO (23), KIMA (29)/KYVE (47) and KAPP (35), with KATS (94.5) at left and KSOH (89.5) at right; the KAPP tower is shared by two LPTVs in the market, CW outlet KAZW-LP (Channel 27) and Fox KCYU-LP (Channel 41).
From here, we go north to the Terrace Heights neighborhood, just across the river from downtown Yakima.
This is where Yakima TV began in 1953, at the "Broadcast Center" of KIMA-TV (Channel 29) and KIMA (1460), which still stands at 2801 Terrace Heights Ave, and is still occupied by the TV half of the combination.
This was also the 1460 transmitter site until the move south in 1990, and I'm told that move, when it happened, cleared up some problems from the AM RF getting into the TV station's video chain.
Just north of that on Butterfield Road is the studio complex of Bustos Media's Spanish-language stations - "Magia" KYXE and simulcast KZTS (1210 Sunnyside, since moved to 1230, allowing for fulltime operation and a power increase at sister station KWMG 1210 Auburn, in the Seattle market) and "Zorro" regional Mexican KZTA (96.9 Naches).
And just west of that on Horgan Road is the single tower of KYAK (930), the 10 kW day/130 watt night outlet of the American Christian Network, our last stop on the east side of the river before heading into downtown Yakima.
Terrace Heights Way turns into Yakima Avenue after it crosses the river into downtown, and at 424 E. Yakima Ave. is the studio building for KCWK, the CW affiliate for the Tri-Cities/Yakima market. Its main signal, on channel 9, is licensed to Walla Walla, more than 100 miles away, and it's seen locally via an LPTV, KAZW-LP on channel 27. (The 9/27 combination used to be an Azteca America outlet, serving the region's very large Mexican-American population, before switching to CW in 2006.)
For many years, KIT operated from 414 1/2 E. Yakima Avenue, right next door, and I think that building eventually gave way to that tall office building ("The Tower") shown at left in the downtown photo, below.
And we have one last stop to make before heading north from Yakima to Ellensburg and beyond: north on I-82 and west on US 12, past the Fruitvale area where our trip started, we head into the Naches Valley and over to the two-tower site of KBBO (980), running 5 kW days and 500 watts at night.
All that, and it's not even lunchtime yet. As our Thursday continues, join us for next week's installment, as we head up into the mountains and visit the Apple Capital of the World and the Buckle of the Power Belt of the Great Northwest!
(And join us over at Tophour.com on Wednesday, April 25 to hear most of Yakima's legal IDs. If you're in Yakima and can help us fill in the gaps, drop me a line, won't you?)
The Tower Site Calendar 2007 is here! They're about to sell out, just like 2006 did - order today at the Fybush.com Store!