Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
Once upon a time – and it sure does feel like a lot longer than nine months ago – you could fly your family to the West Coast, rent a car and spend a very pleasant few days driving along Route 66 through Arizona and New Mexico.
That’s just what we did last July, and for once your editor kept the broadcast stops to a minimum while taking the kids to the Grand Canyon and a whole bunch of old-time tourist stops along the Mother Road.
A “minimum” isn’t quite “none,” at least not in our car – so yes, when there was a broadcast site in easy view, we stopped for a few minutes and a few pictures. Old 66 ran through Flagstaff, of course – and KAFF (930/92.9) has long had its studios right on the side of old 66, complete with the highway shield on the roadside sign. (We’d have even considered stopping in for a quick tour, but it was well after hours and we were late already to get to our overnight stop in the famous Wigwam Motel down the road in Holbrook.)
The next morning, our drive around Holbrook took us right past the tower of KDJI (1270), which sits alongside the ramp to 66’s modern replacement, I-40, as we headed east toward the one radio destination your editor insisted on including in this itinerary.
Back in 2011, our first trip to this area included a visit to the Navajo Nation’s radio stations, KTNN (660) and KWRK (96.1) in Window Rock, Arizona, right by the New Mexico border.
Back then, KTNN’s exemplary public service to the Navajo Nation (and the country music on its newer FM sister station, KWRK 96.1) came from a rather nondescript building just north of the main intersection in Window Rock, where Arizona 264 meets Indian Route 12.
Since then, however, the stations had moved a couple of miles west, into a new building on 264 in nearby St. Michaels. We’d seen some pictures when our friend Tom Langmyer had stopped by earlier in 2019, making a repeat visit here a must.
Coming up from the south along Route 12, we first passed the rocky outcropping called Hunters Point, where a close look revealed the KWRK tower up near the peak. With 100 kW up here, KWRK reaches down to I-40 and nearby Gallup, New Mexico – and up well to the north through much of Navajo Nation. (Even so, the nation is so big that KWRK recently added an FM simulcast, KCAZ 99.5 Rough Rock, up to the northwest to reach the northern parts of the Nation.)
The new studios themselves, opened in 2017, sit right along 264 near the junction with 12 south – and what a change they are from the old facility!
The design aesthetic here, from VThree Studios of St. Louis, is heavy on open glass: the lobby’s glass wall looks across a hallway into the glassed-in tech core, where the engine for the SAS console system is easily seen.
Turn left from the lobby and you’re in the cozy waiting area outside the L-shaped cluster of studios: a talk studio where guests can appear on KTNN, the main KTNN air studio/control room at the corner of the “L,” and the spacious KWRK “Capital Country” studio to the right.
(Did we end up appearing as a surprise guest on KWRK with midday jock Marcia, talking about our lunch plans after the visit? We sure did…)
The furniture is all from Omnirax, by the way – and those are SAS i-SL control surfaces and Yellowtec mic and monitor arms throughout.
There’s expansion room here for a future push into video production, office space for sales and programmers, accommodations if there’s a natural disaster that forces staffers to stay on site – and a BIG central lounge/kitchen area that allows staffers to relax and interact with each other.
Working our way back around the perimeter to the lobby, there are storage areas, engineering work areas, and a spacious, well-lit conference room along the outside wall – an impressive facility indeed for this very unusual and very important group of radio stations.
(Want to hear more about what KTNN and KWRK do for their community? We sat down with GM Troy Little after lunch for an interview on our Top of the Tower Podcast.)
Thanks to KTNN/KWRK’s Troy Little for the tours!
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Next week: Buffalo, Summer 2019