It has long been our policy here at Tower Site of the Week to honor fallen towers with a special installment right away…that is, if we have a “before” photo of the tower in our collection and if we find out about the tower’s collapse relatively quickly. That first “if” can be hit-or-miss; the second “if” usually isn’t an issue, since our inbox tends to erupt right away when there’s a tower down somewhere.
So it was odd indeed when it took more than a month for us to learn that a relatively nearby tower – WWLF-FM (96.7 Oswego NY) – had collapsed in a January 17 windstorm, just 90 miles or so east of NERW World Headquarters. But even with that uncharacteristic delay in the information chain, we’re still holding true to policy by presenting a look at that downed tower.
Since it wasn’t much of a tower, though, we’ll start by showing you some of the other Oswego sites we saw on our last trip to the market, a June 2011 visit in the company of our great tower-hunting friend Mike Fitzpatrick of NECRAT.us fame.
A trip with Mike is always a fun experience for your editor, especially because he makes for a great excuse to revisit broadcast friends I haven’t seen in a while – and to get inside sites I’ve been meaning to visit for even longer.
Oswego’s public radio station, WRVO (89.9), is a perfect example. Back in early 2006, I’d made a run up to Oswego to see the old WRVO studios in Lanigan Hall before they were dismantled and replaced by new digs next door on the ground floor of SUNY Oswego’s Penfield Library. (You can see one of those “before” pictures here.) And after that quickie visit, I kept meaning to go back and see the finished Penfield Library studios, but it took Mike’s visit to finally get me back there.
The new facility is a huge improvement over its predecessor. The “temporary” Lanigan Hall studios that had been built in 1969 consisted of a big performance studio that was used largely for pledge drives, a smaller control room overlooking the big room, and a bunch of offices scattered up and down a hallway outside the studios. By contrast, the new studios put everyone in the same area: entering through the back door of the library, there’s a small reception area, a row of executive offices, groupings of office space for membership, underwriting and news – and then a line of studios, all built from pre-fab modules that were shipped here flat and assembled on site.
The studio core includes two large interview studios, each with its own control room, as well as several smaller voice/edit booths, any of which can serve as the air studio through the magic of Wheatstone’s audio-over-IP consoles, which all feed into the rack room across the hall. (Those reel-to-reel decks, as out of place as they may seem in a facility built in 2006, serve a purpose: WRVO runs old-time radio late at night, and many of the shows are fed into the automation from these reels.)
As WRVO became an increasingly professional NPR outlet, SUNY Oswego added a second station in 1992. 100-watt WNYO (88.9) operates from studios in the school’s Campus Center and a transmitter atop Culkin Hall, the university’s administration building.
The studios occupy a nice windowed space overlooking the main circulation axis of the campus center, with access somewhat controlled by an entrance within the campus activities office.The transmitter, meanwhile, sits amidst the mechanical equipment on the top floor of Culkin, just above the university president’s office.
(Much niftier than the transmitter equipment in its two little racks is what we find across the mechanical room – the antique mechanical controller for the school’s carillon!)
WNYO’s one-bay antenna is just outside, up on a short pole that protrudes from the roof. It’s nothing fancy, but it provides a solid signal over campus and over most of the city of Oswego, too.
WRVO’s own transmitter site is rather more impressive: its 405-foot tower went up on Cemetery Road, a mile and a half south of the SUNY Oswego campus, in the mid-1970s, and in 2006 WRVO completed an upgrade that took the station all the way to 50 kW DA. A pair of Harris transmitters power WRVO’s main signal here, augmented by full-power, full-time relays in Watertown (WRVJ 91.7), Utica (WRVN 91.9) and downtown Syracuse (WRVD 90.3) and part-time relays via SUNY Cortland’s WSUC (90.5) and Colgate University’s WRCU (90.1).
On a previous Central New York swing with Mike, we’d already seen the Galaxy Broadcasting site south of Oswego that’s home to WSGO (1440 Oswego), WTKV (105.5 Oswego) and WKRH (106.5 Minetto), all of them relaying stations from Galaxy’s Syracuse cluster.
So instead of revisiting those (you can see them on Mike’s NECRAT Syracuse page), we made our way east of Oswego to see a couple of smaller FMs that hadn’t yet made it into the NECRAT collection.
About a dozen miles east of Oswego, WVOA (103.9 Mexico) transmits from a 345-foot tower at the corner of County Road 43 and Lee Road, just north of Route 104. It’s the latest incarnation of “Love Radio,” the religious/leased-time station that’s part of Craig Fox’s Renard Communications. The WVOA calls and “Love Radio” format were once heard on a much bigger Syracuse-market signal, the old Rural Radio Network facility on 105.1 in DeRuyter. The Mexico-licensed 103.9 started out as WVOQ, a WVOA simulcast, but eventually became the main WVOA signal (augmented by a Syracuse translator) when 105.1 was sold to Jacor/Clear Channel. Fox bought 105.1 back in 2009, and the WVOA calls returned to DeRuyter for a few months, with Mexico becoming WVOU, but that didn’t last long: 105.1 became country WOLF-FM later in 2009, and 103.9 once again became the main WVOA signal.
And that brings us, at last, to the 96.7 tower that fell in January 2012. This signal signed on in 1990 as WZOS, and my recollection was that it was a rocker as “Z 96.7” before eventually falling silent around 1996. Craig Fox bought the station the next year, and since then it’s been used as a relay for various Fox signals from Syracuse: it was WOLF-FM, relaying Radio Disney from WOLF (1490 Syracuse), and then in 2006 it flipped to rhythmic “MOViN”, eventually becoming WMVN.
It took the WWLF-FM calls in 2009 when it began simulcasting 105.1, which is now country WOLF-FM…and that’s what it was doing on January 17, 2012 when its tower next to a bar on County Road 29 in Scriba came crashing down in a windstorm.
The tower will be rebuilt at the same site (it has to be; 96.7 was shoehorned in very tightly between Rochester’s WCMF on 96.5 and Utica’s WOUR on 96.9, and this location is about the only place it could be fully spaced), but in the meantime 96.7 is operating at reduced power from a temporary emergency facility on the 103.9 tower about four miles to the east.
Thanks to WRVO chief engineer Jeff Windsor for the tours!
Don’t miss your chance to order the all-new Tower Site Calendar 2012, available now from the all new Fybush.com store!
Next week: Hudson Valley, 2010