Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
Normally, we’d be putting up these pictures from our annual Vegas NAB Show trip in late March while busily making reservations and dinner plans and meeting appointments for this year’s NAB Show in a few weeks. (And we’d have opening day baseball on in the background while doing it.)
This would have been our 20th consecutive April visiting Las Vegas – and probably the fourth or fifth time making the longish drive from convention-land, south of downtown, up to North Las Vegas, where Nellis Air Force Base and the Las Vegas Motor Speedway dominate the landscape.
We’ve been heading up there repeatedly because one of our most interesting engineering friends, Entercom Las Vegas chief engineer Tracy Teagarden, has been hard at work for a few years now on a multi-purpose broadcast facility he calls “The Temple of Five Nines.”
That’s reliability-speak, and this place was designed to make sure Tracy’s stations stay on the air no matter what.
When we first came up here back in 2001, there was just one AM station out here in the middle of empty desert. The 10 kW outlet on 1140 was KSFN back then, just one of many incarnations of a station that started as a daytimer on 1050 called KRBO.
The station was called KLUC by the time it moved up here with full-time operation in 1977, leaving its original home at the New Frontier Hotel on the Strip. That 1977-era building still sits here and still houses 1140, now KXST – but the rest of this plant is now in a newer building next door, and that’s what we’ve enjoyed watching as it’s been getting built out over the last few years.
This bigger building houses four GatesAir FM transmitters, full-power auxes for each of Entercom’s Vegas FM stations. Three of them – KMXB (Mix 94.1), KLUC (98.5) and KXQQ (Q100) – normally transmit from Black Mountain, southeast of town in Henderson, while the fourth, KXTE (107.5), has its main transmitter at the much more remote Mount Potosi out to the southwest.
If any of those signals aren’t working (or need to be turned off for maintenance), the Vegas Valley still gets to hear them from the lambda-section antenna on the new tower here at the “Temple,” HD and all.
But wait – there’s more! The other AM in the cluster, KXNT (840), was originally supposed to move here from its own site a few miles to the north, but for now it’s staying put up at the old site, though it has an aux facility here at the “Temple,” too. (There were going to be more towers here, too, to create the needed DA pattern for 840.)
But wait – there’s still more! KXNT’s news-talk competitor, Beasley’s KDWN (720), was in the early stages of planning last April to vacate its longtime site in Henderson, moving to a diplex up here at the “Temple.” As the valley gets ever more developed, KDWN’s once-remote site had become surrounded by suburbia, making for a lucrative land-sale deal so long as the AM signal could be moved quickly. And it was: by last fall, KDWN had relocated up here, vacating the Henderson site it had used since 1975, which was promptly cleared for new development.
(Trivia sidebar: as we read through KXST’s history cards to nail down its timeline, guess what we learned? When the FCC broke down the clear channels and opened up the possibility of using 720 in Nevada, one of the applicants for the channel back in 1964 was none other than KRBO, the station that’s now KXST on 1140. Full circle indeed.)
We’d been looking forward to visiting the “Temple” this April to see the KDWN installation in finished form, too.
The other broadcast stop we made last year (because, hey, we’re out here every year and so we can always catch more next year, right? Sigh.) was a repeat visit to a studio we’d only seen once before.
Nevada Public Radio operates its two stations and Desert Companion magazine from a facility located on the College of Southern Nevada campus a few miles west of the Strip, named for and funded by the estate of newspaper publisher Donald W. Reynolds. (His Donrey group owned the Review-Journal in town for many years.)
The colorful hallways leading back to the studios of news-talk KNPR (88.9) and classical KCNV (89.7) were part of their own work in progress last April: the Axia-based studio plant was in the midst of renovations to provide more studio and newsroom space for a growing staff, including the daily “State of Nevada” talk show.
As was the case almost every year when we were in Vegas in April, KNPR and KCNV were in the midst of their membership drive, complete with the phone room in what was otherwise a live-performance studio in back.
That studio was also used for Nevada Public Radio’s fledgling AAA station, “NV89,” based up at KVNV in the Reno market but also heard on KNPR-HD2.
It was all very ambitious – and much of it fell apart a few months later, as news emerged of accounting irregularities and big deficits, forcing the sale of KVNV, along with some of KNPR’s outlying rebroadcast signals and the ouster of the station’s top management.
Thanks to Entercom’s Tracy Teagarden and Nevada Public Radio then-GM Flo Rogers for the tours!
We have a great lineup of podcasts here on our site. While you’re catching up with your summer reading, don’t forget about your summer listening. Now is the time to make sure you’re up to date with Top of the Tower.
Our latest one features Donna Halper discussing her life in radio, from her time at WMMS when she helped Rush get US airplay, to what she learned from Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg.
Don’t forget you can still visit our store to check out our other great products. We’ll be taking preorders for the 2021 calendar soon. Stay tuned!
And don’t miss a big batch of Vegas IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: KKGO, Los Angeles