Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
If you’re a veteran reader of this column, you know that every single April for the last 17 years has found us in southern Nevada for the NAB Show, and so nearly every single April for the last 17 years has found us taking a drive somewhere in the Southwest before or after the show.
This year, it was Utah’s turn. We’d visited Salt Lake City and northern Utah in quite a bit of depth back on Big Trip 2007 (see our installments here and here), and we’d made occasional incursions from the south into St. George and Cedar City over the years, but one thing we’d never, ever done was to drive the length of I-15 all the way from the state line up to Salt Lake.
Our journey began with an overnight in St. George, which is about two hours north of Vegas via the incredibly scenic Virgin River Gorge on I-15. We didn’t do the St. George towers this time (except for a view from the small historic downtown looking up to the hill that has most of the city’s TV translators and some FM signals), but we did pop in to see if anyone was at home at the Cherry Creek cluster, in a hillside office building. (It was Saturday morning, and they weren’t.)
We did see one unusual thing downtown: a studio for a TV station five hours away. KUTV (Channel 2) is Sinclair’s CBS affiliate 300 miles to the north in Salt Lake, and this state is one big TV market served by oodles of digital translators. But KUTV doesn’t get to St. George by translator; instead, it’s on a subchannel of full-power KMYU (Channel 12) here in town, which is in turn the MyNetwork affiliate for the whole Salt Lake market via a KUTV subchannel up north. (Presto: cable and satellite must-carry for both, at the expense of a local “main studio” down here!)
From St. George we headed up to see some new territory.
Passing by (and inexplicably failing to photograph) the tower of relatively new KENT (1400 Parowan) just north of St. George, it’s on to the remote junction of I-15 and I-70 and eastward to Richfield, the biggest town on 70. It’s here that we find KSVC (980), just off Main Street – and with not one but two transmitter sites!
KSVC’s two-tower, 1000-watt night site sits next to the station’s studios right in town, and it’s a drive eastward into ranch country to the new single tower for KSVC’s 10 kW daytime operation. This two-site operation is relatively new, having gone into operation in 2007 when KSVC upped power from 5 kW from its in-town site.
From Richfield, back roads parallel I-70 up to US 89, which takes us north through small towns like Gunnison and Sterling up to Manti, where we find one of the biggest AM signals in central Utah. KMTI (650) sits in farmland just north of Manti, almost within site of the huge LDS temple that dominates the town.
From here, we cut back westward to I-15 just south of Provo, where we spend the night after dinner and a quick driving tour of Salt Lake City.
AM radio in Provo has had a hard time of things in the decade since we were last in town: KOVO (960), the local ESPN Radio outlet, had been a two-tower facility in 2007, running 5000 watts non-directional by day and 1000 watts from both towers at night.
By 2017, its old transmitter site just west of I-15 had been paved over by a housing development; after several years of STA operation, KOVO is now licensed from its new site just south of the old one, on the edge of Provo Bay off a new road, Lakeview Parkway. It’s still 5000 watts by day, but just 140 watts at night. And that’s still better than KSRR (1400), which was off the air completely.
And then there’s the oddest station we saw on this trip, and possibly all decade. Just south of Provo in Spanish Fork, which was shuttered up tight on Sunday morning, there’s a Hare Krishna temple off the side of the road. A Hare Krishna temple, we’d note, with a radio tower right behind it, for the Hare Krishna radio station, KHQN (1480 Spanish Fork).
And as we drive up to the little house behind the temple that houses KHQN’s studio and transmitter, we notice…can it be? Peacocks? Yes…and they’re just part of a huge wildlife menagerie that occupies the grounds of the temple. Look closely in the photo of the temple above and see if you can spot the llamas and other beasts that roam the grounds (and, we’d assume, tune in to AM 1480 from time to time.)
The 2022 Tower Site Calendar – PREORDERING OPEN NOW!
This is a special year for our calendar – it’s the 20th anniversary for us, and the 100th anniversary of America’s radio boom in 1922, when the industry really took off and stations erupted all over the country. This special edition of the calendar will showcase the survivors from the Class of 1922, which grew into some of America’s biggest radio stations.
Though it’s not off the presses yet, don’t wait or risk shipping delays – you can order it right now.
And check out our other great merchandise!
And don’t miss a big batch of Utah IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Grand Junction, Colorado