Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
We’ve had some radio changes close to home here in upstate New York in the last few months, and in this week’s Site of the Week installment we present some “before” pictures, with “after” to come later this year…
The changes at the Finger Lakes Radio Group are all internal: after many years in the hands of George Kimble and Alan Bishop, a bankruptcy led to the station group going up for auction. As we write this, we’re waiting for final FCC approval so that the sale to new owner Bruce Danziger (doing business as Long Point Communications LLC) can close and these stations can begin their next chapter.
In the meantime, though, let’s take a look at what George and Alan built inside the little block building at 3568 Lenox Road on the west side of Geneva. This building was the longtime home of WGVA (1240), and we remember (but, alas, have no pictures of) the old setup here – you’d turn right from the front door and there was a big studio dedicated solely to the AM station, with the transmitter out behind it.
Today, the space where the WGVA studio once sat alone is a hallway lined with studios that serve five stations. On the right side of the hallway as we face the back of the building, AC outlet WNYR (98.5 Waterloo) was the first station to be added to WGVA here. It was a fairly late addition to the Finger Lakes FM dial in the late 1980s, operating independently for a few years from studios down Routes 5 & 20 before becoming WGVA’s FM sister. (That’s morning man Jim Schreck in his studio.)
There’s a newsroom and a few small news booths down this side of the hall as well, leading down to the studio at the end of the hallway that’s the current home for WGVA’s “Finger Lakes News Radio” format. From here, the WGVA morning show is semi-simulcast with WAUB 1590 in Auburn, to the east, where a morning co-host does local news cut-ins for Cayuga County. Both of the Finger Lakes News Radio AMs have FM translators these days, too – WGVA on 96.1 and WAUB on 98.1.
In 2000, Finger Lakes Radio Group picked up the AM/FM combo in Seneca Falls, eastward between Geneva and Auburn. Daytimer WSFW (1110) was part of Finger Lakes News Radio for a few years and then did tourism information before being swapped away to CSN International to go religious; in exchange, FLRG got the former CSN translator that eventually led to the WGVA translator. WSFW-FM (99.3) became rocker WLLW, “The Wall,” picking up calls and format from FLRG’s 93.7 signal up in Clyde, in Wayne County to the north. WLLW’s old home on 93.7 went to regional religious group Family Life Ministries, which renamed it WCOV-FM.
“The Wall” comes from a studio on the left side of the hallway, and because it’s live only in the afternoon, its studio was able to take on double duty when FLRG added another FM here recently. WFLK (101.7 Geneva) had belonged to George Kimble’s brother Russ, who ran it from a small studio in a shopping center just across 5 & 20 from Lenox Road. Now its local morning show comes from the “Wall” studio while WLLW is carrying the syndicated “Bob & Tom.”
(WFLK, in turn, ended up simulcasting its country signal over in Canandaigua, just west of here, where the original Kimble station WCGR 1550 had been part of Finger Lakes News Radio, then went oldies once it was augmented by a translator on 104.5. Now it’s “K101.7 & K104.5.”)
The room just behind the WLLW/WFLK studio is the tech center for this building, and it had just undergone a significant upgrade when we stopped by in the spring of 2014.
WGVA’s transmitter, a little Energy-Onix, still sits here, next to racks that hold automation, STLs to the other FLRG stations, and also the transmitter for translator W214BR (90.7), which was once the CSN outlet and now relays public radio WRVO (89.9) from Oswego.
Just across 5 & 20 and eastward a mile or so, we find some much more significant physical changes underway at Hobart & William Smith Colleges.
The “Colleges of the Seneca” have long been the licensee of WEOS, first on 89.7 and more recently on 89.5, but a lot was changing here in 2014. The college handed over some of WEOS’ operations to Rochester public broadcaster WXXI in 2010 (disclaimer: your editor is an occasional WXXI employee and has been heard doing membership drives on WEOS). By then, there were also plans being made to get WEOS out of the old house right along 5 & 20 that it had occupied since the 1990s.
Before we get to the house, we walk a few buildings down to Winn-Seeley Gymnasium, where the old WEOS 89.7 transmitter site is now used by WEOS translator W212BA (90.3) and the Hobart & William Smith low-power FM, WHWS-LP 105.7, as well as the STL that sends the WEOS audio a few miles west to the current site near Stanley, N.Y.
Back at the old house, the move out finally took place late in 2014, so these are decidedly “before” pictures of a studio facility that’s now been torn out so the house can be converted to student housing.
When WEOS was in full swing here, the front door facing Hamilton Street (Routes 5 & 20) was kept locked most of the time; instead, visitors entered from the rear door, facing toward the college campus. A back hallway led into the station’s main hallway, where the path to the front door was interrupted by what passed for the WEOS tech core – two racks of audio and networking gear, including the guts of the Logitek consoles that powered the studios.
If one kept walking toward the front of the building into the foyer area, one could turn right and head upstairs to station offices and a storage area – or left into the studio at the front of the house, which was home not only to a fireplace and shelves for storing remote gear. That studio eventually became home to WHWS-LP (105.7), the largely student-run low-power FM for Hobart and William Smith.
The WHWS studio connected back to the biggest room in the building, which served as both a record library and a talk studio. (The view above is from the door between the WHWS and talk studios, looking toward the back of the building. The hallway with the tech core is – was – through the door at left; the door at rear right led into a powder room that also doubled as part of the CD library.)
And that little window behind the talk table looks – looked – into the main WEOS air studio at the back of the old house, a cozy space nicely outfitted with a Logitek console.
We’re looking forward to checking out WEOS’ new space in the student union building soon, and we’ll do an “after” segment as soon as we do!
Thanks to WNYR’s Jim Schreck and WEOS’ Greg Cotterill for the tours!
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Next week: Olean, NY