Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
It’s a beautiful late-summer day in western New York. Mike Fitzpatrick of NECRAT.us fame is in town for a few days. Why not take a little road trip?
With a little help from some friends, that’s just what we did – starting relatively close to home with an update on a station we’ve visited in this space several times before. WEOS (89.5 Geneva) is the public radio station based at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, and for the last few years it’s been operated in conjunction with one of my employers, WXXI in Rochester.
When Hobart had other uses for the little house where WEOS had been located for two decades, it worked with WXXI’s engineers to relocate the station (and its sister student-run LPFM, WHWS-LP 105.7) to new space a block away at one end of the Scandling Student Center. We’ve been down there several times doing pledge drives (and we’ll be back again in a week or so), but this is the first time we’ve shown off this brick-walled space here on Site of the Week.
There’s a big main air studio at the front of the facility, looking out through a large window at the student mailboxes and down toward the cafeteria; behind it, there’s a small rack room that connects back to Rochester for NPR/PRSS satellite feeds and out to the WEOS transmitter west of Geneva (as seen at the top of this page). There’s a station manager’s office tucked in the back corner, and a second studio that can be used for WEOS production or for live broadcasts on WHWS-LP, all running through the same Logitek gear that moved over from the old house on Hamilton Street.
From here, our little caravan is off to Ithaca for a delicious food-truck lunch, then up the hill south of town to visit our friend Mike Kerr, who was at that point soon to depart Saga’s Cayuga Radio Group for a new gig in New England. He had the keys to one of the most interesting sites in town, the WNYY (1470) site up on Troy Road that we’d shown you a decade or so ago in this space.
At the time, Saga had just begun building out a huge cluster of FM translators up here, and we’d been eager to visit again to see how things ended up with a whopping seven translators mounted on the center two of WNYY’s four towers.
While WNYY itself has its transmitter and phasor in a big block building near the road, the translators are in prefab buildings out by each tower – and so we ride out into the field to check them out. The south-center tower has four translators combined into the top yagi – W240CB (95.9), W242AB (96.3), W244CZ (96.7) and W277BS (103.3) – with a fifth into the lower yagi, W262AD (100.3); the north-center tower has a four-bay yagi setup for W231DK (94.1) and W235BR (94.9).
It’s a mix of Armstrong and BW Broadcast transmitters for each of the signals, most of them running in the vicinity of 150 watts TPO – and at those power levels, you don’t need a huge combiner, either.
(What’s on all these translators? A mix of AM and HD2/3-fed signals – 94.1 relays WNYY’s True Oldies, 94.9 relays Saga’s top-40 WFIZ 95.5, 95.9 was just in the midst of moving from news-talk WHCU 870 to “Alt” fed from a WQNY 103.7 HD subchannel, 96.3 carries sports “96.3 the Buzzer” from WYXL-HD3, 96.7 is AAA “The Vine” from WYXL-HD2, 100.3 is “I-100” classic rock from WIII 99.9 Cortland, and 103.3 fills in WQNY’s country from its main 103.7 signal west of town. And there was one more – 97.7 – that debuted just a month later as a new WHCU relay. It’s a busy FM dial here!)
And we finish up our visit up north of Ithaca along the east shore of Cayuga Lake. This is where Binghamton public broadcaster WSKG put down Ithaca roots a few decades ago with its first full-power relay signal, WSQG (90.9) – and where Hobart and William Smith, with help from WXXI, joined in a decade ago with another new class A signal, WITH (90.1).
WSQG’s main transmitter is a Nautel that’s tucked almost out of sight to the left in the photo above, while WITH uses the Harris on the right. In between is WSQG’s HD2 translator, W221CW (92.1), which relays WSKG’s second service from Binghamton (WSQX 91.5) – and which is about to become WSKG’s full-time “WSKG Classical” outlet for Ithaca, while WSQG itself goes full-time news and talk.
(WITH is “Different Radio,” carrying a AAA format partially fed from WRUR 88.5 in Rochester.)
And speaking of Rochester, join us here again next week for a look at some of Rochester’s biggest signals!
Thanks to WXXI’s Bryan Agnello and Ben Ackerman and (then-)Saga’s Mike Kerr for the tours!
And don’t miss a big batch of Finger Lakes IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Rochester, summer 2018