Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
This week’s installment wraps up our summer 2012 journeys across Indiana, starting with a few of the sites we saw on a lazy summer’s evening heading eastward back to our Hoosier home base in Fort Wayne.
Moving north from the Terre Haute sites we featured last week, we made a quick turn off US 41 to shoot some pictures of WAXI (104.9) in Rockville, about 20 miles north of Terre Haute. In August 2012, WAXI was in transition (and, I believe, may even have been silent), heading from the failed Crossroads Communications cluster out to a new stand-alone owner, Dave Crooks. He was still a few months away from getting WAXI back up and running with an oldies format, which involved rehabbing the old studio building at the base of the tower to return the studios here from their former home down the road in Terre Haute.
From Rockville, it’s a 50-mile drive north and east to Lafayette, a city whose studios we’d visited on the infamous “Icy Slide” trip a decade ago. Since we hadn’t even really been planning to go this way, and since we didn’t get there until well past business hours, our Lafayette pictures this time around were strictly exteriors, starting south of town at the Artistic Media Partners studio building that doubles as the transmitter site of what’s now WSHY (1410), which we were sure to correctly note this time around as a two-tower directional array, with that second tower back in the field behind the studios.
We also swung past a few sites that had eluded us on the 2004 trip: Purdue University’s public radio outlet, WBAA-FM (101.3 West Lafayette), has its tower on the university’s experimental farm south of town. On the east side of Lafayette, as we pick up SR 25 to US 24 to take us back across the state to Fort Wayne, we see a new stretch of 25 bypass just about to open, right next to the tower of WXXB (102.9 Delphi), Back on our 2004 visit, “B-102.9” had been part of a two-station cluster with WKHY (93.5), but in 2005, both joined the Schurz Communications cluster alongside WKOA (105.3) and WASK (1450/98.7).
At that point, we thought, it was just a straight shot across the newly-upgraded 24 back to Fort Wayne, but the drive held one more nifty surprise. As we sped around Peru, midway back home, we spotted something both unusual and familiar in the next lane: a big GMC motorhome from the 1970s decked out with big “Oldies 98.3” signage. That’s Brian Walsh’s nifty WIOE-LP from Warsaw – and with Indiana RadioWatch head honcho Blaine Thompson (and his extensive list of Hoosier radio contacts) in the vehicle, it took just a few minutes to get Brian on the phone and pick out a spot to stop and say hi – which was, of course, just off the side of the road between Peru and Wabash, at the tower of WARU-FM (101.9 Roann). After enjoying a spectacular sunset and a nice visit with Brian, we were off again…
…only to stop a little while later to attempt some night shots of the lit-up towers and transmitter building of Fort Wayne’s legendary WOWO (1190), also right alongside US 24 in Roanoke, Indiana. (See the inside of the place here!)
And with that, the road trip that took us to central Illinois, St. Louis and back through Indiana finally came to a close. But we still had a few more days in Fort Wayne, and a few more studios we hadn’t seen.
On the east side of town, an office park on East State Boulevard is the current home of a legendary Fort Wayne callsign. WLYV (1450) was the scrappy little top-40 station that could, and did, back in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1980s, 1450 became WAFX and then WEZR and shared a studio on Reed Road with then-WEZV (101.7); later on, it reclaimed the WLYV calls, played oldies for a while, and eventually ended up in the hands of Catholic broadcasters who now program it as “Redeemer Radio.”
After starting out its religious existence in an office building on the west side of town, WLYV’s current digs on East State are quite attractive, especially given a fairly limited budget. There’s a nice control room with an Axia console, an adjacent talk/interview studio, and space for pledge drives as well.
Another batch of stations that had been through some changes by the time we visited in 2012 were the three FMs then owned by veteran broadcaster Russ Oasis. He bought WBTU (93.3 Kendallville), WSHY (106.3 Columbia City) from Artistic Media Partners in 2007, keeping the country on WBTU and flipping 106.3 to R&B oldies as “Vibe,” WVBB. Oasis already owned WJFX doing rhythmic top 40. Three formats and two callsigns later, 106.3 was doing hip-hop as “Clickhop,” WHPP, when we headed up Coldwater Road to the fancy new office building where Oasis had moved the stations.
This was quite the facility: from a stone-walled lobby, we could head right into sales offices or left down a hallway past identical studios for each station.
The one shown above at right happened to be “US 93.3,” WBTU, but I believe the layout and gear (including Neumann mics) was the same for each of the three stations.
This facility is still in use, but not for much longer, because it’s caught up in the midst of some very big changes in Fort Wayne radio that are still underway. Both Oasis and the competing Summit clusters were recently sold to Adams Radio Group, which had to spin off two stations that exceeded the ownership cap and will eventually combine what’s left at the former Summit studios down at the WGL (1250) transmitter site on the south side of town.
From the Oasis side, the new Adams group includes WBTU and WJFX, but not 106.3 – it’s been swapped off to the Redeemer Radio folks, who are simulcasting WLYV on it. Soon, 106.3 will be WLYV-FM, and 1450 will become a talk station for Adams – and we need to get back to Fort Wayne to get a new set of tours!
Thanks to John Buckley at Oasis and Bob Hartenstein at WLYV for the tours!
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Next week: An unusual Philadelphia studio facility, 2012