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A different kind of consolidation
In July 2006, Westwood One moved into its newly renovated studio facility located in Culver City, CA. It took many months of planning and five months of execution to finish the project. Home to the nationally syndicated programs Loveline and The Tom Leykis Show, there was a lot we wanted to accomplish that we were lacking in our old facility. A router-based console system was a must. We also wanted auxiliary power so California's rolling blackouts wouldn't roll our shows right off the air. And we wanted studios that sounded good and were versatile.
The project began with Westwood One owning four buildings in Culver City but only occupying three. The fourth had been occupied by CBS Radio's KTWV until CBS consolidated all of its stations into the Wilshire Blvd. location in 2005. KTWV moved out and left a well designed, but used radio station building empty. This building was across the street from Westwood One's two buildings that housed the administration and sales offices and Metro Traffic's studios.
About a mile away from the neat little annex of buildings were the radio network's studios and operations. Inconveniently located and worn around the edges, it was time to update the 26-year-old building and equipment. It seemed to make sense to everyone to move the studios closer to the rest of the operation and renovate the former KTWV building to meet the network's needs. Then, we could manage a clean transition rather than trying to renovate an existing space while people were trying to work in it.
It was a pleasure to renovate a building that was designed as a radio station in its previous incarnation. Studios were already built with sound walls and doors, an auxiliary generator and UPS were already in place and a rack room existed with wire trays to the studios. Design was easy; we simply changed the floor plan by removing a few offices and adding a new main control room and studio. Everything else was reused: the offices, kitchen, bathrooms and existing studios.
Most of the renovation budget was spent updating the old infrastructure. New mechanical controls were needed for the air conditioning system because most of them no longer worked. New air conditioners were added for additional cooling. New fixtures in the bathrooms were installed as well as new carpet and paint throughout the space. The local building department required upgrades to the fire alarm system and we needed to add fire doors and renovate egress paths out of the building.
The rest of our budget was allocated for new studio furniture and equipment. We started by updating the inventory of equipment in our old building and then developed a wish list of what we wanted in the new building. If anything from the old building could be re-used, we removed that from the wish list. What was left was a long list of new items that we needed to purchase, because not much could be moved. We broke our list into three categories: furniture, broadcast equipment and console/routers. We sent our needs in each category to the appropriate vendors and built our budget from there.
Deciding on the console and routing system was a challenge. The available products have matured to the point where there are a lot of good choices with virtually unlimited flexibility. Pricing was competitive. We spent a lot of time talking to other customers and checking references. We looked for a track record of solid support from the vendor, as well as system reliability and up-time. And we looked at features to ensure the product could do the work. Any complex system will have expected bugs and problems that need to be ironed out by fine tuning configurations and using the correct hardware. What's important is the follow-through from the manufacturer to help get those bugs worked out after the initial installation.
After all of our research, we still had three vendors to choose from. We selected Sierra Automated Systems (SAS) over the others for a few reasons. First was SAS' proximity to our offices. With its factory in Burbank and our offices in the Los Angeles area, we knew getting parts and support would be easy. Secondly, we already had a 32KD router at the Metro Networks office across the street. With a fiber run through a conduit running between the buildings, it would be easy to tie the two routers together and share sources and studios. With that one fiber run, we essentially could double our studio capacity. And finally, our history of reliability, up time and support with SAS has been outstanding. We've used its routers at our larger Metro Networks offices throughout the United States for many years.
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