With the demolition of Promontory Tower fast approaching, Weber State University’s radio station is rushing to find a new site for its radio transmitter
“We’re doing our best to make sure things get done, but sometimes the wheels of progress grind slowly,” said Ty Sanders, KWCR adviser.
If the wheels grind too slowly and the radio station doesn’t have a new transmitter in place by late April, it could temporarily loose it’s radio signal beginning in May when Promontory Tower is demolished to make room for a new residents hall.
“If we get approval, we think we could move ahead relatively quickly,” Sanders said. “I would like to know as soon as possible. The possibility exists that if everything doesn’t come together, we might have to go off the air for a short period of time. I’m trying to avoid that, but that’s one of the realities.”
The radio station would like a new transmitter and antenna to replace a 25 year-old system that former WSU engineering professor Bill Clapp purchased 22 years ago from a man’s garage in Texas for $300 after it was struck by lightning.
Clapp’s engineering students had to retrofit and repair the transmitter before they could use it, Clapp said. After the modifications, the transmitter still lost much of the power in its signal when it was covered in even a thin layer of ice.
“It’s a weaker signal that cannot be heard by as many students,” Clapp said.
A new antenna with a fiberglass cover would be unaffected by ice, Clapp said.
Currently, Sanders said the most likely location for the new system is atop a block building east of Stewart Stadium. Sanders said all the new equipment will cost about $45,000 and another $5,000-$15,000 to install. For each of the last several years, KWCR has saved money for the new system but will still come up a little short to complete the project. However, Sanders said there’s a good chance they’ll find the necessary funds elsewhere, perhaps from the existing student-fee budget.
If KWCR can’t complete the project before the tower is demolished, it’s looking into using a temporary transmitter until it can finance the new one.
The uncertainty with KWCR’s broadcasting system came when the first plan to install a transmitter on Mt. Ogden was foiled after the station learned its signal would interfere with another radio signal sharing the same frequency that broadcasts out of Park City, Sanders said. If the transmitter could be installed on Mt. Ogden, it would provide a clearer signal, but not extend its range, which reaches from North Ogden to Layton. It also would eliminate many of the dead zones created when the line of sight from the transmitter is blocked by hills and buildings.
These dead zones are largely eliminated by the superior broadcasting power of major radio stations that broadcast out of Salt Lake City at 100,000 watts compared to KWCR’s broadcast of 2,000 watts. KWCR can’t broadcast a stronger signal because the local radio band is so full that a more powerful broadcast would interfere with other stations, Clapp said.
“We’re a small, low-power station,” Clapp said.
Broadcasting from the same frequency on WSU’s campus isn’t a problem because the mountains prevent the two signals from interfering with each other, Sanders said.