Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
Over the last 20 years or so of radio travel, one of my favorite cities to visit has always been Pittsburgh. The people are friendly, the geography is impressive, and the baseball is, if usually mediocre, at least played in a pretty ballpark. (This year, of course, being the exception to that rule – go, Bucs!)
In the summer of 2011, the scourge of interleague play delivered one small redeeming gift: the Red Sox traveled to PNC Park to play the Pirates, and that was more than enough reason to load up the family and the van and make the trip to the Steel City.
And if we needed another reason, here’s one: just a few months earlier – on November 12, 2010, to be precise – CBS Radio had finished consolidating its studios, relocating KDKA (1020) from its home of nearly half a century at Gateway Plaza in downtown Pittsburgh. KDKA’s new home, as it happened (OK, we planned it this way, to be honest) was right above our hotel for the visit: 651 Holiday Drive, building 5 in the Foster Plaza complex in suburban Green Tree, just a couple of miles west of the former downtown studios.
KDKA’s CBS Radio clustermates had been calling Foster Plaza home for a decade and a half by then: as EZ Communications and later Infinity Broadcasting, consolidation had brought together WZPT (100.7 New Kensington) and WDSY (107.9 Pittsburgh) at the longtime home of WBZZ (93.7 Pittsburgh), up on Mount Washington overlooking downtown Pittsburgh. That facility on Grandview Drive was too small for three FM stations, and in the mid-1990s, the three FMs moved to a different Foster Plaza building (building 10) before ending up here at 5 Foster Plaza.
Conveniently for CBS, the 5 Foster Plaza home of the three FM stations turned out to be on a floor where extra space was available – and so it became possible to expand the existing FM space with a new annex for KDKA(AM). By the time the AM moved in, the three FM studios in a row off the glassed-in lobby were home to sports “Fan” KDKA-FM (93.7), country WDSY and “Star 100.7,” which had by then taken on the WBZZ calls that used to be on 93.7.
A simple left turn off the FM “studio row” brings us back to the new AM wing, where the fairly spacious newsroom was dedicated to the memory of longtime KDKA afternoon host Fred Honsberger, who died shortly before the station’s move out of Gateway Center.
The newsroom looks into three studios: there’s a production room that looks into the lobby on one side and into the newsroom on the other. The editors’ desks face a big glassed-in air studio that can be used for talk or news, and that in turn looks into three more studios.
On one side (backing up to the original FM “studio row”) is a control room for talk programming, outfitted like the rest of the rooms with shiny new SAS Rubicon consoles. Across the main air studio, there are two smaller rooms that can be used as news booths.
At the back of the newsroom, a door opens into a former conference room that’s being repurposed for live music performances, mainly for “Star” and “Y108,” of course. And off the far end of the newsroom, there’s a new tech core for KDKA(AM), connecting out to the transmitter site at Allison Park that we featured on this site back in 2010.
Thanks to CBS Radio Pittsburgh’s Vic Pasquarelli and then-news director Marshall Adams for the tour!
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Next week: WQED transmitter site, Pittsburgh, 2011