June 3, 2011

Lancaster, PA, 2009

The last time your editor made it to the NAB Radio Show, it was September 2009 and the show was in Philadelphia - and with some time to spare between the end of the Radio Show and the Binghamton Radio Reunion a few days later, it was the perfect excuse for a little road trip to see some sights in eastern and central Pennsylvania that we needed to add to the Site of the Week collection.

This week's installment is just a quick one, because we didn't spend much time on this trip in Lancaster - just a quick overnight stop between the NAB Radio Show in Philadelphia and a morning meetup with fellow TopHour.com editor Bill Harms before heading up to spend most of the day in the Harrisburg area.

So what did we see during our quick spin around Lancaster? First up was a venerable TV studio building, familiar to connoisseurs of vintage Broadcasting Yearbooks. WGAL-TV (Channel 8) was for many years one of the "Steinman Stations," which long occupied the front-cover advertising space, often with images of the studio buildings of WGAL and sister station WTEV (Channel 6, now WLNE) in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Now owned by Hearst, WGAL continues to call this building off old US 30 (Columbia Avenue) home, and one of these days we'll have to arrange for a tour (and go up the hill to WGAL's transmitter site as well!)

Clear Channel's stations in Lancaster - standards WLAN (1390) and top-40 WLAN-FM (96.9) - long occupied a downtown studio space, but they'd just recently moved out to the suburbs when we drove by their new office-park digs on this increasingly cloudy morning.

And that wasn't the only change happening at WLAN around our 2009 visit: after many decades as a 5 kW day/1 kW night facility on 1390, the station was on the verge of losing its four-tower transmitter site on the west side. Alas, we don't have a good picture of the old site, which was adjacent to a Franklin and Marshall College athletic field and hard to see behind trees that surrounded it...but we can show you where WLAN ended up after losing the lease on the old site.

Hemmed in by some tight co-channel and adjacent-channel allocations, including 1390s in Arlington, VA and Syracuse, NY and 1400 in Harrisburg, WLAN had few options for a new nighttime directional site, and in the end it wound up taking a fairly significant downgrade to stay on the air. It's now diplexed with Hall Communications' WLPA (1490) at a site off Dillerville Road north of downtown Lancaster, with WLAN now running 1100 watts by day and just 18 watts at night, non-directional.

This site is itself a fairly recent arrival on the Lancaster tower scene: WLPA used to be on a downtown rooftop - and long before it was WLPA, the 1490 station was WGAL, ancestor of today's WGAL-TV.

That's it for our Lancaster visit - but there's more central Pennsylvania to come: stay tuned next week for the first of two installments of Harrisburg photos! And this week's installment continues a new set of Site of the Week/Tophour.com crossovers - join us over on our sister site Tophour.com each Wednesday to hear some of the legal IDs we recorded while taking these pictures!

- Find out when the new Tower Site is posted, and much more! Follow us on Twitter @NERadioWatch - and don't miss your chance to order the all-new Tower Site Calendar 2011, now on CLEARANCE at the Fybush.com store!