Clear Channel, Gadsden: Small Market, Big Presence

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Clear Channel owns two stations in Gadsden, AL, which is about 60 miles northeast of Birmingham. These stations, WAAX-AM and WGMZ-FM, have an established presence in the community. And while this is one of the smallest markets for Clear Channel, it was still important to build a quality facility that served the stations’ needs reliably and affordably.

WAAX control room

The new studio operation for the stations is actually not a new building. In the late 1990s, Clear Channel bought a building in downtown Gadsden and moved the stations out of the studio building that is collocated with the AM transmitter. The downtown operation worked well for 15 years, but like any facility, the time had come to update the equipment.

As costs were considered, Bob Newberry, market chief for the Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and Gadsden stations, wanted to build a studio facility that would ensure reliable and hopefully flexible service to the stations. With an eye to keeping costs under control, an idea was hatched: If the downtown studio building was sold, the money could fund the studio project. The facility at the transmitter was still there, and the building was in good shape.

The downtown studio building was listed for sale. With the real estate market making its slow come back, it took 1.5 years for the realtor to find a buyer. Once a buyer stepped forward, the plans kicked in. This began in June 2012.

Inside the rack room, looking at the computers and servers from the left.

Inside the rack room, looking at the computers and servers from the left.

The building sale arrangements were finalized in August 2012. Work on the transmitter site building began in October and was completed in November. he stations moved in the middle of December 2012.

Having sat mostly vacant for 15 years, the transmitter site building needed some attention. The HVAC was replaced, and the entire building was painted inside and out. 15 years of basic groundskeeping was given a landscaper’s touch. A studio generator was brought in, a Liebert UPS was installed and the building electrical system was rewired. Then the attention could turn to the studios and offices.

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