Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
Spending a little over a day in San Antonio didn’t make me an expert on the Alamo City’s development, but just driving around gave me at least a pretty good sense of one thing: a lot of the growth in this fast-growing urban area has been up on its north side. The sprawl long since outgrew the I-410 loop around the city, and these days it pushes well beyond Loop 1604, the huge outer loop around the metro, too.
Looking for San Antonio’s TV stations? You’ll find several of them up here on the north side, including three right on the frontage road along 410 just west of the big interchange with I-10. This is the longtime home of Sinclair’s Fox affiliate KABB (Channel 29, named for original owner Alamo Broadcasting), as well as its shared-services partner KMYS (Channel 35, once KRRT for its city of license, Kerrville.)
More recently, this complex of buildings (business office on the left, studios on the right) has also become home to KABB’s duopoly partner, NBC affiliate WOAI-TV (Channel 4); in 2014, channel 4 left its longtime downtown home at 1031 Navarro Street to move up here.
An earlier move from downtown happened in the 1980s, when KENS-TV (Channel 5) left the complex of its then newspaper owner, the Express-News, for a state-of-the-art new building off Fredericksburg Road, half a mile northeast of the Sinclair stations.
Continue north on Fredericksburg just a couple of lights and you come to the office parks that line Datapoint Drive, named for a pioneering computer company that foundered in the early 1980s before it could occupy its new headquarters skyscraper here.
The building would go on to house several radio operators over the years: there are still FM bays on the roof, a relic of when San Antonio’s first public radio station, KPAC (88.3) began broadcasting from the rooftop here before eventually joining sister station KSTX (89.1) out at the Galm Road site we showed you last week.
Today, KPAC and KSTX are part of Texas Public Radio, located in a different office building down Datapoint Drive, while Cox Radio’s San Antonio stations make their studio home in the original Datapoint building.
The north side of San Antonio is also where Clear Channel’s explosive growth happened, or at least where it was based. As the company grew into one of the biggest station owners in the country, it made its headquarters at 200 E. Basse Road, a nondescript office building off US 281 south of Loop 410. Its local cluster of stations operated from a different location, a two-story building on the I-10 frontage just south of 410, almost within walking distance of KABB and KENS, if anyone actually walked on this tangle of busy arterial roads.
After Clear Channel became iHeart and much of its corporate leadership became based in New York, it consolidated its spaces here in San Antonio. By late 2018, both the Basse Road offices and the “6222” building had been emptied, with corporate offices and the local stations all relocating up to the Stone Oak area, way up north along 281, even beyond the outer reaches of the 1604 loop.
This is a very different studio facility even from most of the other new cluster studios we’ve shown you in recent years. With so much of the programming on these stations – sports “Ticket” KTKR (760), news-talk WOAI (1200), classic country KRPT (92.5 the Bull), top-40 “Now” KXXM (96.1), country KAJA (97.3), AC KQXT (101.9) and Spanish hits KZEP (104.5) – either being tracked or arriving from other markets, the facility was built without dedicated studios for any individual station.
There’s a showcase studio right off the lobby where each station puts its most prominent shows: the WOAI morning show, KTKR’s late-morning sports talk, “Latino Hits” in the early afternoon and so on, with the digital signage on the walls changing for each station and the Wheatstone consoles seamlessly reconfiguring as each station takes over.
Behind the lobby studio, WOAI is the lone station with a dedicated control room, adjoining a newsroom that feeds it and other iHeart stations across Texas.
Keep moving down the hallway here and you’ll pass a programming bullpen area with a handful of enclosed offices – and then turn the corner and you’ll find another open office area lined with studios.
Who’s in which studio? You’ll need to look at the video screen by each studio door to see who’s reserved the room, and for which station – any of these studios can easily be put on the air live on any station, or can be used to track a station or feed out to a station or network somewhere else.
As with the showcase studio up front, these rooms each have Wheatstone consoles that can switch on the fly to handle the needs of whichever talent and station is using the studio. The video walls switch, too – and speaking of video, there are lots of cameras in each room so that talent can originate video content as well as audio.
There’s another row of smaller studios on the opposite side, specifically for production and tracking. There’s a big data center on the other side of the building, mostly for iHeart corporate but with a couple of rows of racks of gear for the local stations (no pictures here!), and upstairs, past the iHeart corporate office space, a smaller room handles all the microwave feeds to the transmitter sites all over the area.
We’ll show you a few more of those, and another surprise studio visit, as we wrap up our look at San Antonio (including, yes, a stop at the Alamo) in next week’s installment.
Thanks to iHeart’s Jason Fernandez for the tour!
HERE, CYBER MONDAY IS CYBER WEEK
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The Radio Historian has created another historic calendar for 2021, and we’re selling it!
This year’s calendar features 13 new full-color historic images of radio broadcasting from 1913 to 1969. We only have 30 and they sell out fast, so don’t wait!
The 2021 Tower Site Calendar is in the final stages and heading to the press, and we are ready to take your order!
This is the 20th year we have been publishing our calendar. In addition to the beautiful cover shot of WEJL, we have photos from New Jersey, Nebraska, Texas, and much more!
And while you’re getting your calendar, don’t forget the other great products in our store.
And don’t miss a big batch of South Texas IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: One more installment from San Antonio