Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
This week’s edition of Site of the Week takes us up and down the Thruway in eastern New York, where we made some quick summertime stops on the way to and fro.
In Menands, just across the city line north of Albany, our former Rochester colleague Nolan Stephany is now the chief engineer at WNYT (Channel 13), Hubbard’s NBC affiliate, along with its MyNetwork sister WNYA (Channel 51). We stopped in on the way to lunch to get a quick tour of this building, which is a 1980s office structure wrapped around the 1950s-era studio core that was built for WTRI (Channel 35), the predecessor of WNYT.
There’s not much from WTRI or the 1950s that’s recognizable now in this building. The studio at its core is still relatively compact, filled by a set that dates back to the standard-def years. The adjacent newsroom is part of a later expansion toward the north end of the building; toward the south end of the building we find a master control for both WNYT and WNYA adjoining the engineering area.
There’s a new HD control room around the corner for the extensive diet of local news these stations offer, including a 10 PM show on WNYA that competes with two other 10s in the market, the WXXA (Fox 23) show produced by Media General’s ABC partner WTEN (Channel 10) and the WCWN (“CW 15,” though actually channel 45) show produced by Sinclair’s CBS partner WRGB (Channel 6).
An hour and a half to the west, we pull off the Thruway at Utica, where it’s just a couple of turns off Exit 31 to the new home of the Roser Communications Network.
When last we visited these stations on the top floor of a downtown Utica office building early in 2015, we knew they were preparing to relocate to new digs – but we had no idea they’d be this colorful or well-appointed, starting with decorative wall murals in the lobby/reception area.
Ken Roser bought this metal building on an island in the middle of the Mohawk River to house both his radio stations (country WBGK 99.7/WBUG-FM 101.1, “Kiss” top-40 WSKS 97.9/WSKU 105.5 and AC WUTQ 100.7) and his ad agency, and he took advantage of an existing feature in what was otherwise a big open space that had once been a church sanctuary.
The raised platform at one end of the building that had been the church altar stayed in place – but it got walled in to become a row of raised studios looking down on a spacious lounge/prep area adjoining sales and conference areas. And then the decorators made a bold choice: while the studio interiors were done up in demure gray soundproofing, the outside wall facing the prep area got a bright orange vinyl coating, facing Kermit-green walls in the rest of the lounge area.
Maybe you like the color scheme, maybe you don’t – but say this for it: it’s a bit of flash and showmanship that’s sorely missing from most radio facilities these days, and we bet it impresses the heck out of anyone who stops in to be interviewed or to talk to a sales rep. Shouldn’t radio be doing more of that?
And we wrap things up for the week with another visit from earlier in the summer, another hour eastward on the the Thruway. The low-slung building on West Kirkpatrick Street in Syracuse has been home to the legendary WOLF radio since 1940, and August 2015 brought a big reunion of staffers from both WOLF (1490) and its erstwhile top-40 rival, WNDR (1260).
For those who worked here in years gone by, it should all look pretty familiar even now: heading back from the small front lobby, the main hallway here is still lined in wood paneling. There’s a small production room off the lobby that looks into a big room that was once a live performance studio and is now a conference room, decorated for the reunion with WOLF banners and filled with memorabilia.
The back hallway here leads to the studios still being actively used by Craig Fox’s cluster of stations. On the left, the original main WOLF air studio still has the original round door and pegboard walls; today, this room houses rhythmic “MOVIN'” WMVN (100.3 Sylvan Beach).
Across the hall, WOLF-FM (105.1 DeRuyter)/WWLF-FM (96.7 Oswego) occupies a smaller studio that was once used for Radio Disney on WOLF (1490); the AM is now automated with sports talk.
And the WNDR calls live here now, too, on Mexico-licensed 103.9 and a chain of translators, playing oldies from a small studio off the conference room.
Thanks to WNYT’s Nolan Stephany, Roser’s Dave Silvers and the WOLF reunion crew for the tours!
2017 IS HERE…DO YOU HAVE YOUR CALENDAR?
So you didn’t get the Tower Site Calendar for Christmas? Or New Year’s? The year is still new…treat yourself!
Go to our store, click on the “Broadcasting Calendars” tab, select the options for the Tower Site Calendar (be sure to click on “yes” or “no” for a storage bag) and add it to your cart. Click on the “View Cart” button, and you are ready to check out.
And don’t forget our hand-numbered autographed calendar. These are a limited edition, as we only have 40 of them.
While you’re in our store, check out the other calendar we’re offering as well this year – John Schneider’s “Radio Historian’s Calendar.” Each year is themed, and this year’s theme features buildings that once housed radio.
Take a look at our great collection of radio- and TV-related books, too! There’s a gift there for everyone.
And don’t miss a big batch of upstate IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Richmond, Virginia