Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
Look at that photo below on the left: with the flat, flat plains and the pump jack off in the distance, we could easily be showing you towers of Lubbock or Tulsa, right?
But we’re actually on the north side of Denver in early August, kicking off a busy day of tours with a couple of our colorful Colorado radio friends. These two towers sit side by side in a place called Dacono, just east of I-25 about 20 miles north of downtown Denver.
The TV tower here (shown at left) is the Denver-market Telemundo station, KDEN-TV (Channel 25/RF 29) licensed to nearby Longmont. It’s one of the few Denver full-power stations that doesn’t transmit from up on the Front Range to the west. (We’ll head up there in a later installment, don’t fear!)
Next door, the 1100-foot FM tower here is the main site for country KWOF (92.5 Broomfield), “The Wolf,” as well as an important auxiliary site for iHeart’s FM cluster, which has three FMs (KTCL 93.3, KPTT 95.7 and KRFX 103.5) ready to roll here should anything happen at their main sites up in the mountains. (Again – we’ll see those very soon!)
A bit of history before we move along: this tower was KTCL’s main transmitter site for much of the 1990s and 2000s, after the station moved southward from its original home in Fort Collins and before it completed its final upgrade and moved up to Lookout Mountain in 2007. KWOF was also a move-in; it used to be licensed to Greeley, to the north, but was here at Dacono by 1989, though it wasn’t relicensed to Broomfield until many years later.
It’s pretty much a straight drive south on Colorado Boulevard to our next destination, one of the many AM directional arrays that dot the plains here. This one is KDSP (760 Thornton), which landed here in 1987 as KJIM, a religious station with 50,000 watts by day and 1,000 watts at night. A few years later it became part of the Jacor cluster as a sister station to KOA (850), cycling through formats that included talk (KTLK), progressive talk (KKZN, “The Zone”) and eventually into sports as KDSP.
Just before we arrived in Denver, 760 had been tweaked again, this time to “Orange and Blue 760,” sports talk focused entirely on the Broncos. (You’ve got to differentiate when you’re one of five sports stations in town!)
This is a tidy, efficient site inside the bland brick building: there’s a BE AM6A for night use, a Harris DX50 for daytime and a phasor along the back wall, facing off against a rack of STL gear and a fairly new Nautel that serves as the off-site aux for big sister KOA. (Its main site is in Parker, south of Denver, and we’ll get there, too, as this trip rolls on…)
From KDSP, it’s another short hop south to 120th Avenue and the current site of one of Denver’s oldest stations. KHOW (630) traces its history to 1925 as KFXF. Within a few years of its start, KFXF was sharing time on 920 kc with another Denver radio pioneer, KFEL. In 1934, it took new calls of KVOD, and in 1939 it landed on 630 from a site at 56th Avenue and Pecos Street on the north side of Denver. KVOD became KHOW in 1958 and was one of Denver’s top-rated stations for the next few decades.
In 1979, the site at 56th and Pecos was sold for new development, moving KHOW up here to 120th Avenue, where it runs 5000 watts from a four-tower directional array that’s a sort of extremely squashed parallelogram – so squashed, in fact, that from many angles it looks more like a four-tower inline array that’s slightly offset in the middle.
As you’d imagine for a 5000-watt site built in the late seventies, this is a pretty compact building: one wall for the two Harris 5 kW transmitters, perpendicular to the unusual “visible phasor” that shows off its coppery coiled guts behind a thick layer of plexiglass. (There are similar “visible ATUs” at the base of each tower!)
KHOW these days is iHeart’s secondary talker, a little more political and a lot more syndicated than mostly-local KOA up the dial on 850.
And our last stop on this leg of the trip is a north side newcomer: KCKK (1510 Littleton) built this stubby four-tower array off Riverdale Road in Thornton, a few miles south of KHOW, in 2008. With 10 kW by day and 25 kW at night, this site replaced a earlier 1510 facility (ex-KDKO) that was actually in Littleton, south of Denver. There probably aren’t many listeners hearing KCKK’s format (“The Rock”) on 1510 these days – it exists mainly to feed a big translator on 93.7 up on Lookout Mountain. (We’ll see that, too, a few segments from now!)
Thanks to iHeart’s Jason Gorodetzer for the tours!
The Fybush Media podcast is back!
Season two of “Top of the Tower” offered you several preview editions during the NAB Show last month in Las Vegas – and now we’re back to regular weekly editions. Join host Scott Fybush and a wide variety of industry insiders every Wednesday for interesting conversation about what’s happening in the business of radio and TV, not to mention programming, engineering and the newsroom.
Find “Top of the Tower” on all your favorite podcast platforms or right here at fybush.com – and check out our Season 1 Archives, too!
And don’t miss a big batch of Denver IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Denver 2017, part II