Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
Our busy Friday afternoon in Lansing back in August 2017 (we showed you the first part two weeks ago and the second part last week) still had some pleasant surprises waiting for us at day’s end. Before we could get downtown for a fun Lansing Lugnuts game – it was Oldsmobile Night at the former Oldsmobile Field, not to mention completing our rounds of organized pro baseball in Michigan! – our host for the day still had another tour for us.
On Pine Tree Road in southeast Lansing, right by the I-96/I-496 interchange, Townsquare’s radio cluster makes its home in a sturdy brick building that belonged to Citadel when these stations all came together here in the mid-90s.
This is a neat facility, in no small part because anyone who walks in the front door knows right away they’re in a radio station. Studio windows surround the front desk, giving visitors a look into two of the big music stations in the cluster.
On one side of the reception area is AC WFMK (99.1 East Lansing), with top-40 sister WJIM-FM (97.5 Now FM) directly opposite.
Behind them, also with windows facing into the reception area, are the two AMs in the cluster, sports WVFN (730 East Lansing) on the left, news-talk WJIM (1240 Lansing) on the right. (And yes, this brings us full circle from one of our earlier stops on the day’s tours, the WJIM radio/TV “country house” where these stations had been until the 1970s.)
Behind the reception desk, the studio core opens out to a two-story row of windows and a stairwell down to the ground floor. Before we go downstairs, though, we turn left to see the studio of country WITL-FM (100.7) – and right, to see classic rock WMMQ (94.9 East Lansing).
Downstairs, there are more offices, production rooms – and a big rack room that serves the studios directly above. Unlike most rack rooms, this is also a control room, sending out Michigan Talk Network programming, including WJIM’s morning show, to affiliates statewide.
From the current Townsquare building, you can look out the window and see the tower to the south that carries three of the four FMs here.
Historically, this was WITL-FM’s site, shared with the now-defunct WITL (1010) – and both stations made their studio home at the “WITtLe White House” in front of the tower site.
It’s been two decades since WITL moved out of the White House, and the old building is sitting there in a pretty bad state of decay these days.
Vertical Bridge now owns the tower site, which has its own separate transmitter building out back – and today it’s home to not only WITL-FM at the top of the tower but also WFMK just below, and then WJIM-FM down below two aux antennas. (There are also new CPs here for translators to carry WVFN on 102.3 and WJIM’s AM on 107.7, plus an EMF translator on 95.9, apparently to be fed by a WITL-FM HD subchannel.)
The transmitters are all neatly lined up here: WITL-FM, WFMK in the middle, and then WJIM-FM, plus an “n+1” aux transmitter that can run any of the three if need be.
And after seeing this site, we’re off to the ballpark for a night of baseball – followed the next day by a quick drive past a few more Lansing sites as we head out of town for the long drive home across southern Ontario.
We start out to the southwest, just out past Charlotte, where we see the two towers of WLCM (1390). This station, which relicensed from Charlotte to Holt a few years back, is part of Jon Yinger’s Christian Broadcasting System group of stations, though it was doing ethnic programming on this Saturday morning.
Closer to the city, still on the southwest side, we see the newest AM site in the market, Macdonald Broadcasting’s WILS (1320). It moved from its longtime home behind that cluster’s studios on Cavanaugh Road, on the south side of Lansing, a decade or so ago, and news-talk WILS now runs 25 kW by day, 1.9 kW by night from this new five-tower array. (The Cavanaugh Road site is still home to the former WILS-FM 101.7, now WHZZ, which we somehow missed visiting on this trip; we’ll have to fix that next time.)
Also nearby, just south of I-96 off Grovenburg Road, is Macdonald’s WXLA (1180 Dimondale), a 10 kW daytimer that drops down to 2 kW during critical hours to protect the big gun on 1180, WHAM back home in Rochester.
A quick loop through the middle of Lansing takes us past the stately capitol building on the west side of downtown – and two nearby FMs, too.
Just to the north, Lansing Community College’s WLNZ (89.7) has a modest one-bay DA mounted on a campus building; across Capitol Avenue from the capitol itself, WLMI (92.9 Grand Ledge) has its five-bay antenna high atop the Boji Building. This was originally the Olds Building – and in 1950, it was the first home of WJIM-TV 6.
WLMI is one of several stations in town owned by Midwest Communications; we find their studios southeast of town in a strip mall, shared with sisters WQTX (92.1 St. John’s, “Team” sports), WWDK (94.1 Jackson, “Duke FM” country) and WJXQ (106.1 Charlotte, rock “Q106”).
And we finish off our tour of Lansing sites off Gunn Road in Holt, where WMMQ (94.9) and WVIC (730) share a site that’s down a long private road on the far side of a little lake. It’s not obvious from this photo, but the AM station – a 500-watt daytimer that later added 50-watt night service – has three towers that sit alongside the taller FM stick.
There’s still quite a bit of Lansing we haven’t seen, including the MacDonald studios and 101.7 site, several of the outlying FM sites, and a few AMs – WJIM (1240) and move-in KTGG (1540 Okemos) share a tower tucked in a city park east of downtown, and WUNN (1110 Mason) is a religious daytimer south of the city, with an in-town FM translator. We’ll look forward to a return trip up I-69 into Lansing sometime soon!
Thanks to Dan Kelley 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 Michigan IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Austin, 2017 (part I)