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 fame.

Outside WRVO's studios

Outside WRVO's studios

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.

WRVO's rack room

The WNYO-FM transmitter

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.)

Outside the WNYO studios

...and inside
WNYO, from ground level...
...and up on the roof

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 transmitter building

WRVO's transmitters

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).

WRVO's tower

The WVOA 103.9 tower

WWLF-FM 96.7

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.

The base of the WWLF-FM tower

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 store!

Next week: Hudson Valley, 2010


  1. Scott
    I can see the 96.7 tower lights from my house. Drive by regularly and saw the damage the day after the storm. Now that I’m retired. it never crossed my mind that the various radio news sites would not get the word from those still in the business.

    I keep watch for any signs of resurrection at the WWLF site.

    I was one of five competing applicants for the original CP. The allocation was requested originally by an engineer in the Hudson Valley. His later application was not accepted or filing.

    Mine was accepted, but kicked out for failing to include a page indicating that I had access to the transmitter site. It was going in my front yard about a1/4 mile south of the current location. The FCC had just added that page due to a high number of paper applications that later required amendments when actual sites was obtained. It was still in the days of paper apps and mine was just old enough to be missing that page. A petition for reconsideration was rejected. I was fortunate in the long run because I had a much better career staying at WRVO and moving up through the management side of the public radio service till retirement in 2010.

    The successful applicant sold the CP about 9 months after grant. As you said the area that met all the separation criteria AND still put a 70dBu signal over all of Oswego was very small and land owners were not thrilled with having a tower planted in their back yard.

    The CP then sold to Chip Binder who obtained the current site with a large signing bonus. (The Bar next the tower was not there when the tower was built in what was pasture.)

    Binder ran through several formats and studio locations before he left town owing large amounts to suppliers and vendors. Craig Fox got the license and tower as part of the Bankruptcy proceedings.

    It appeared to be a sturdy stand alone tower and had withstood several major bouts with icing and high winds before the collapse. The weather that night was extreme for our area with gusts to 100mph. There were trees and power poles down nearby and a barn collapse bout a half mile north.

    John Krauss (formerly of WRVO)

    • We had our own scare earlier that day at WXXI, when an insulator gave way on one of the middle guy wires of our daytime AM tower. Turns out that back around 1982, a crew had installed the insulator the wrong way, with the guys wrapped around the thin end caps of the insulator unstead of the thick center bar. Amazingly, it held for almost 30 years!

      There were some nervous hours until the wind died down and a crew could reinstall another insulator and get the tower properly guyed again.

      Thanks for the info on 96.7. I still haven’t been out that way since the storm – how much of the tower came down?

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