Colorado-based radio station KRFC has just installed a new radio tower and RF facility, effectively boosting its signal more than 16 times to reach nearly 1 million Front Range residents.
Effective last Thursday, May 12, the station launched a 50 kW facility to replace its 3 kW signal. This switch more than doubled the station’s broadcast footprint to include new communities as far south as North Denver and further east of Greeley, Colo., according to KRFC. Extensive public and private donations helped finance the project.
KRFC 88.9 FM has been a part of the Fort Collins community in Colorado since 2003. As a non-for-profit radio station, its music programming is entirely “volunteer-powered” by 90 DJs, repping 64 shows and producing 61 of them in-house each week. Until now, KRFC did not own its own tower, having leased antenna space at its old site.
“It is rare for an independent station to own and operate its own broadcast tower of this size, a development that will allow KRFC 88.9 FM to lease bandwidth to other regional broadcasters and commercial organizations needing a tower for their signal,” said KRFC in a press release.
“KRFC is open to discuss leasing opportunities of HD-2, -3 and -4 as well as physical tower space,” station officials told Radio World.
To learn more about the new site, project costs and the installation process, Radio World spoke with Jen Parker, KRFC’s executive director.
Radio World: Why did KRFC want to build a new tower? Why was this project important to the station and surrounding community?
Jen Parker: For the 19 years the station has been on the air, the signal has been very spotty due to the terrain and our 3 kW signal just wasn’t powerful enough. It has been a dream for years to improve the signal and broaden the reach to be the true voice of northern Colorado. The new boosted signal gives a more pleasurable listening experience and exposes many more Coloradans to this wonderfully eclectic station that entertains, educates and informs our community members in a positive, nonpolitical and uplifting way.
RW: What was the timetable for the build (was 2022 the expected year for completion)?
Parker: The capital campaign launched in 2018 and we had hoped to complete the project last year, but due to the issues related to COVID, supply chain and increased costs, we completed the tower earlier this year and went live with our new signal on May 12, 2022.
RW: What was the budget and what were fundraising efforts like?
Parker: The initial budget was just under $300,000 and, again through delays related to COVID and supply chain issues, the project ended up being just under $500,000. The capital campaign was epic with initial lead gifts from Paul and Amy Hach, Ginger and Jack Graham from Ginger and Baker, and New Belgium Brewing who produced a limited edition beer called “Power The Tower Pale Ale” with proceeds going towards the campaign.
Other incredible individuals stepped in and made considerable donations, and then we held Power The Tower donation drives throughout the past few years. The entire project was funded by donations and we didn’t have to take out any loans to complete the project.
RW: Describe KRFC’s physical airchain path.
Parker: The studios are located in the heart of the Music District in beautiful downtown Fort Collins. The station uses 950 MHz analog STL to get audio to both the new and, previously, the old site because they are near each other; we have ceased operation at the old site now.
The new facility has completely new equipment and is located about 9 miles east of Fort Collins, Co. After path challenges prevented use of a new unlicensed 6 GHz IP link, KRFC ordered a set of GatesAir Intraplex IP codecs and an Intraplex HD Link. We purchased an ERI LP antenna and a GatesAir FAX High Power transmitter.
RW: Who were the major vendors/contractors for the project?
Parker: We utilized Sabre Towers, the tower manufacturer; Broadcast Connection as broadcast supply vendor; GatesAir for transmitter and STL equipment; Cell Site Solutions, a used equipment shelter dealer, and Galvanized Endeavors for broadcast and tower construction.
RW: What were the critical equipment and facility decisions that had to be made ahead of the installation?
Parker: Obtaining land in a populated area in Colorado to build a tower is challenging in itself. Keeping the tower less than 200 feet high had some advantages. Transmitter TPO versus size of the antenna was one of the more critical decisions to make. A full-wave-spaced ERI LP antenna was utilized, which allowed for a low TPO near 7 kW. Although we could have located further south for more population coverage, KRFC wanted to be absolutely sure of a very strong signal throughout the entire city of Fort Collins.
Check out the gallery below for pictures of the installation process. (Click to toggle between photos)
RW: What was your role in this process? Besides yourself, who was on the team?
Parker: I managed the entire launch of the campaign, the majority of the private donation relationships and handled all the marketing and PR along the way with my incredible team. Our engineer Matt Schilz was the project manager along with several key volunteers with engineering backgrounds. Charles Anderson of Anderson Communications created the pattern and provided the necessary support for application and [FCC] filing.
The internal team helped with the entire process along with Sean Lamborne, our program and volunteer director, and David Vacek, our music director.
RW: Who kept the process rolling and how were crises (if any) managed?
Parker: As a team, we knew that this project was a true necessity for the station to serve a greater population in powerful and impactful ways through supporting nonprofits, the arts, schools and colleges and small and large businesses; and that we needed to improve the signal and expand the reach.
At no time did we lose sight of that goal and, when challenged with delays or other issues, we stuck together and kept the belief and mission alive. It was a total team effort from our remarkable staff, board of directors and volunteers.
You can find KRFC on your FM dial in northern Colorado, online or in the App Store at “KRFC 88.9FM Radio.”