May 15-22, 2002
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Chattanooga: No Choo-Choo, Just Towers and Studios
As we criss-cross the country visiting radio stations and
towers, there are some places we visit with big expectations.
Pulling into Yankton, South Dakota last summer, we knew we were
going to see the tallest AM tower in America. And we expected
to see some unusual AM facilities in San Diego last August.
Chattanooga, Tennessee...well, it was a convenient stop for the
night between Nashville and Atlanta during our big mid-South
trip this past February and March. A few AM stations, a bunch
of FM rimshotters - not much to see, right?
Surprise! What we found in Chattanooga was a vibrant, interesting
radio market, a neat variety of tower sites, and a small city
that appears to be growing and healthy, surrounded by some awfully
All that, and we saw most of the town in just a few hours
one Thursday morning in late February...
We pulled in at night, which left us time to do little more
than grab some dinner at the Waffle House (when down south...)
and watch the local TV newscasts, which weren't half bad for
a market this size.
The sun was out the next morning, and a beautiful blue sky
greeted us as we headed down Broad Street out of downtown to
begin our tour. Four stations are housed in the brick building
at number 2615: adult standards WDOD (1310, live and local in
morning drive); sports WDEF (1370); AC WDEF-FM (92.3) and AAA
WDOD-FM (96.5). (They're all locally owned, even!) Just down
the street at number 3300 is the very old, very attractive studio
building of WDEF-TV (Channel 12), the CBS affiliate that's no
longer related to its former radio sisters.
From here, we headed
west, up the old road that snakes over Lookout Mountain, overlooking
the big bend in the Tennessee River. The mountain itself has
no radio or TV (save for one translator), but it does preserve
an earlier, more innocent era in tourism history: you can still
see the old motels and tourist attractions (See Rock City!) on
US 11 as you head west.
Licensed to "Lookout Mountain," the small community
just northwest of the mountain itself, is the station seen at
left, WFLI (1070). This religious station cranks out 50 kilowatts
by day with three towers, then switches to four towers at night
for 2500-watt operation, yielding a site that's got plenty of
steel to be seen. (If memory serves, none of the day and night
towers are in common, so what you see here is really two arrays
on the same piece of land!)
Today, there's also a WFLI-TV, the WB affiliate on channel
53 licensed to nearby Cleveland, Tennessee.
From Lookout, we headed back into Chattanooga, then north
on the US 27 freeway to old 27, which winds its way uphill to
the north end of the Signal Mountain tower farm, where most of
Chattanooga's TV and FM originates.
A cluster of towers off Sawyer Road is home to Fox affiliate
WDSI (Channel 61, still living down the embarrassment a few years
ago when it was caught offering favorable news coverage to its
advertisers, for a price!), PBS outlet WTCI (Channel 45), public
radio WUTC (88.1) and country giant WUSY (100.7).
Follow Sawyer down to US 127 and head south, and you come
to the original Signal Mountain cluster. East of the highway
is the relatively short tower of WRCB (Channel 3, the NBC affiliate),
with the big Channel 3 antenna up top.
across the street is another cluster of steel, seen in the photo
at right, above. From right to left, we see: WTVC (Channel 9,
the ABC affiliate), with two Citadel FM stations: classic rock
WSKZ (106.5) and oldies WOGT (107.9 East Ridge); several non-broadcast
sticks; and at right, WDOD-FM (96.5).
heading south on 127 for another half-mile or so, and you see
the tallest of the Signal Mountain sticks, WDEF-TV (Channel 12),
which still has former sister station WDEF-FM (92.3) as a tenant.
This stick rises from what's become a very expensive neighborhood
of big homes overlooking Chattanooga (this is the east side of
the Signal Mountain ridge, you see, with a sharp drop-off creating
a dramatic vista of the river valley below), and WDEF has done
a nice job of concealing its transmitter building behind a spiffy
metal fence with big brick posts, in keeping with the neighborhood
From here, we headed south on 127 back into the valley, in
search of three Chattanooga AM stations that transmit from the
flats enclosed by the big bend in the Tennessee River, just across
the river from downtown.
The easiest of the
three to locate, by far, is the site shown at right: 821 Pineville
Road, home of WGOW (1150) and its Citadel brethren. WGOW is Chattanooga's
news-talk voice, simulcasting its morning show on WGOW-FM (102.3
Soddy-Daisy), which then splits off with a separate talk lineup
for much of the rest of the day. WGOW(AM) runs 5 kilowatts non-directional
by day from one of these three towers, switching to 1 kilowatt
from all three after dark.
The studio building is also home to WOGT and WSKZ, as noted
above. (WGOW-FM transmits from a tower just east of the 27 freeway,
on a slope of Signal Mountain.)
Keep going south on Pineville Road and it becomes a narrow
dead-end route into the Moccasin Bend Golf Course, which is where
we were able to get a somewhat distant view of the four towers
of WDEF, which uses just one stick by day for its non-directional
5 kilowatts, then switches to all four at dark, remaining at
5 kW with a teardrop signal aimed southeast.
sister, WDOD, is another 5 kilowatt DA-N operation, using three
towers (a tall daytime stick in the middle and the additional
two nighttime sticks surrounding it) just north of WGOW.
The WDOD sticks are easy to see, but not very easy to get
to; we ended up in a maze of dead-end streets in a very industrial
neighborhood hemmed in by railroad tracks, emerging with a somewhat
obstructed view of the towers (and some puzzled looks by the
various plant guards who saw us driving around and clambering
up the sides of railroad embankments!)
There's one more broadcast facility in the neighborhood before
we cross over the river and into downtown again: the studios
of New York Times-owned WRCB (Channel 3) overlook the US 27 freeway
from a little one-way street called Whitehall Road. This building
is easier seen from the freeway than from ground level, but we
grabbed a shot of one end of it, in any event.
Downtown Chattanooga has little to offer these days, where
broadcasting is concerned; just east of US 27 on 6th Street is
the former home of WTVC (Channel 9), in what looks like a sixties-era
shopping center that's now home to an HMO's offices and some
Passing the actual
"Chattanooga Choo Choo," which is now a hotel (!),
we turned east on Main Street, passing the WDSI studios behind
a big brick wall at number 1101 and heading into some of Chattanooga's
less well-off neighborhoods.
On East Third Street, we pause briefly at the little self-supporting
tower of religious WLMR (1450), then head north again a few blocks
to our final Chattanooga directional: WNOO (1260), with two towers
next to the little studio building of the black gospel station,
at 1108 Hendricks Street.
But wait - on closer inspection, we see that WNOO is actually
non-directional, running 5 kilowatts by day and a whopping 25
watts at night from just the one tower next to the studio building.
So what's that other tower doing there? It's another station
- religious WJOC (1490), running a kilowatt day and night from
its tower just east of the WNOO stick!
Two more stops complete
our day in Chattanooga, and they're both in the fast-growing
suburban area along I-75 east of town.
In a colonial-style building where Old Lee Highway crosses
I-75, we saw Clear Channel's Chattanooga cluster, which includes
urban "Love 97-3 and 99-3," WLOV-FM (97.3 South Pittsburg
TN, with translator W257AZ atop Lookout Mountain); "Kiss
98.1," WKXJ Signal Mountain; country WUSY (100.7 Cleveland
TN); oldies "Magic" WSGC-FM (101.9 Ringgold GA); "Rock
105" WRXR (105.5 Rossville GA) and sports WUUS (980 Rossville
Yes, you read that right - an entire cluster with not a single
station actually licensed to Chattanooga!
And where's WTVC
now, since its old Sixth Street facility is empty? Up on a hill
overlooking I-75, thanks, in a brand-new facility that opened
just a few years ago to house the market-dominant Freedom Communications
From here, we headed out of Chattanooga, bound for a visit
to Monitoring Times in Brasstown, N.C., dinner in Spartanburg,
S.C. and a hotel much later that night in Atlanta. You'll see
plenty of pictures and stories from our weekend in Atlanta over
the next few weeks here on Tower Site of the Week - and then
we'll begin showing off our pictures from our most recent trip,
to England, Wales and France!
In the meantime, we left Chattanooga without managing to grab
legal IDs from several AM stations; if there's anyone in Chattanooga
who could help us out with a bit of taping on some of the smaller
AM signals (820, 910, 980, 1070, 1240 and 1490 to be exact),
drop us a line and let us know; we'd be grateful!