June 8, 2007

WTRY/WOFX 980, Troy, NY

You know you're dealing with a pretty prominent transmitter site when the last turn you make on the way to the station is on "WTRY Road" - and indeed, there are few stations in upstate New York with the prominence of the erstwhile WTRY, Troy (980).

The photo-montage above was taken in 1995, when the big brick building at the end of WTRY Road was still in use not only as the station's transmitter site but also as the studios for it and sister station WPYX, Albany (106.5) - and when WTRY was, for that matter, still WTRY.

The history of those calls on 980 goes back to 1940 - in fact, there's some evidence to suggest that WTRY operated very briefly on 950 before that channel morphed into 980 in the March 1941 "NARBA shuffle." In any event, the very early WTRY was a 1000-watt daytimer, probably operating from Troy itself. It later went to 1000 watts full-time, and by 1950 WTRY had achieved its present configuration: 5000 watts (DA-1 then, DA-N now) from these three towers nestled into the Mohawk River valley off Route 7 in Niskayuna, on the eastern edge of Schenectady County a few miles west of Troy itself, across the Hudson River.

After the 1995 exterior visit to WTRY, it was another eleven years before we finally made it inside the building, and by then a lot had changed, up to and including the call letters on 980. In 2000, the AM station became WOFX, "Fox Sports 980," and in early 2006, it and its sister stations (by then under Clear Channel ownership) uprooted from WTRY Road and moved a mile or so away to a new cluster studio, which we'll see later on.

Entering the old building today, we head upstairs, to the large room at the front of the building that's always been the transmitter room in one form or another. At one time, the whole front of the second floor was filled with transmitters, but as the size of the transmitters shrank, the space in the center of the room was eventually renovated into a studio for WTRY's sister FM station on 106.5. (It was born in 1967 as independent WDKC, was sold to WTRY in 1971 as WTRY-FM, then spent some time as beautiful music WHSH before rocking out as WPYX in 1980, at which point this studio was built for the FM side. It was also at about that time that an old RCA transmitter for WTRY was removed and sold, becoming the first transmitter for WOZW 710 in Monticello, Maine, now WREM.)

Today, the AM transmitter lineup outside the old WPYX studio includes the Gates BC-5P that was probably the primary in 1980, as well as a newer Harris SX-5A and an even newer Nautel that recently went in when WOFX went digital recently.

There's a small office to the right of the old Gates that was used as a music director's office, and a few small rooms to the left of "transmitter row" that were used as production studios. At the back of the building is an old lounge area, and it's there that we turn downstairs and check out the additional studios that were built out of what was once garage and storage space as the cluster of stations here grew in the nineties.

In 1992, WTRY(AM) began simulcasting on the former WSHZ (98.3 Rotterdam), bringing the oldies of "The Great 98" to FM in a happy coincidence of dial positions. The FM side broke from the simulcast in 1994, then returned in 1996, by which point WTRY and WTRY-FM were operating from a big studio downstairs. Down the hall, behind the windows shown above, the former Saratoga Springs 102.3 moved into the market, relicensed to Ballston Spa, in the early 90s. It was initially WZRQ, later WXCR and then (when it arrived here in 2000) "Kiss" WKKF. Today, those studios, and the production rooms that serviced them, sit mostly empty, used just for storing old gear and a lot of memories.

Earlier in 2006, we had the chance to visit the new Clear Channel facility, just off Route 7 a short distance from the turn-off to WTRY Road. This new facility combined staffers who'd been in three locations: WTRY Road, an office down the street where the WTRY/WPYX sales and management staff were located, and another office near the Crossgates Mall that had been home to WGY (810 Schenectady), WRVE (99.5 Schenectady) and WHRL (103.1 Albany).

At the new building, there are two big pods of studios on either side of a huge engineering rack room. To the right are WOFX, WGY, WRVE and WPYX, while the pod on the other side holds WTRY (with a prime corner spot), WKKF and WHRL. It's all very functional and very modern, if lacking in some of the charm of the old place. (Not that the staff seems to mind; from the looks of the old studios, they were simply abandoned in place as soon as the new ones were ready!)

One more bonus picture: the WTRY call letters and the hits it played in the fifties, sixties and seventies live on at 98.3 on the dial, and our good friend Mike Fitzpatrick over at NECRAT.com kindly provided this picture of its antenna, up on a tower behind a machine shop south of Rotterdam.

Thanks to Dave Abdoo, CE of Clear Channel Albany, for the tours!

The Tower Site Calendar 2007 is sold out! But we still have other back issues and more goodies availale at the Fybush.com Store - and check back soon for your first chance to order Tower Site Calendar 2008!