Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
It’s a funny relationship Las Vegas and I have these days. I get there like clockwork every April for the big NAB Show, but the busier I get at the show, the less time I have to get out into the valley and beyond to see what the talented broadcasters in the market are up to.
But after keeping a long-distance eye on one particular project, I had to make some time to get away from the convention center and up to the dusty north end of town this past April to see what Tracy Teagarden and his CBS Radio crew have been up to.
Some background: in a very FM-centric market, CBS has two substantial AMs in its portfolio.
KXNT (840 North Las Vegas) is the market’s top-rated AM, doing news and talk from a 1980s-vintage site some 25 miles north of Las Vegas, up where US 93 splits from I-15 to head deep into the desert. But the lease on that site is running out, and so CBS has been working to diplex KXNT closer to town at the four-tower site of its CBS Sports Radio signal, KXST (1140 North Las Vegas), not far from the speedway at the northern edge of the Vegas suburban sprawl.
That’s not all, though: at the same time, CBS is setting up its new 840/1140 facility to also be home to high-power auxiliary transmitters for its four FMs in town. Hot AC KMXB (Mix 94.1), top-40 KLUC (98.5) and what was news-talk simulcast KXNT-FM (100.5) all make their primary homes on Black Mountain, southeast of the Strip; modern rock KXTE (107.5) is way out on Mount Potosi to the southwest.
When we stopped by in April, a big chunk of the groundwork had been laid for the new plant. The old 1140 building, built in the late 1960s when what was then KLUC(AM) moved from 1050 to 1140, had not only the 10 kW 1140 facility squeezed in there but also an aux facility for 840 and an FM transmitter that could be used to back up any one of the CBS FMs.
Next door, the new building was all done structurally, with transmission lines and electrical service in place awaiting installation of a slew of new transmitters for both AMs and all of the FMs. (That includes 100.5, which flipped not long after NAB to rhythmic hot AC as KXQQ, “Q100.5.”)
Outside, there was much work yet to be done: in addition to the new tower that holds the FM aux antenna and the four KXST towers, foundation work was in place for five more new towers for KXNT. The FM aux tower will be joined by a second tower to create a two-tower, 50 kW daytime array, with four more towers going up for 10 kW night operation of KXNT, all separate from KXST’s existing antenna system and the FM tower.
Which means, yes, that there will be 10 towers here next time we visit, plus a short little tower holding the STL antenna pointing back at the CBS Radio studios in an office park on the south end of Las Vegas. While it may not be obvious from the gentle rise leading up to this site, we’re actually at quite a sizable elevation over most of the valley up here, which makes it a surprisingly good FM location.
As for those studios, they’re in the “recent change” file as well. We never made it to see the previous CBS Radio location way out on West Sahara, and somehow it took us nearly four years to make it to the latest studio facility, in an office park off Warm Springs Boulevard a few miles south of the old digs. That is indeed a sponsored lobby (!); behind it, the facility splits pretty neatly into two halves, each housing its own mini-cluster of stations.
The conference room doubles as a live-performance space, thanks to a very modular furniture system and some creative decorating. At the other side of the building, the KXNT newsroom occupies a compact open area right next to the station’s control room and studio and several smaller voice booths just down the hall. KLUC is down here as well, just out of view, and I think KXQQ is now at this end as well.
On the other side of the building, KMXB, KXTE and KXST form the other studio cluster.
Those are brand-new logos for “Mix,” and that’s our old New England buddy Shawn Tempesta holding down the afternoon shift in between giving us the nickel tour of the place.
We’re already working out our agenda for NAB 2016, which will absolutely include a return to the CBS transmitter site (now with bonus towers!) – and we need to catch up with some of the other clusters in town, too, including Beasley’s fairly recent studio rebuild and Lotus’ consolidation of two more AMs into its transmitter site in North Las Vegas. Stay tuned!
Thanks to Tracy Teagarden and Shawn Tempesta for the tours!
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Next week: Northwest Indiana