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Slammed by Storms, a Cumulus Cluster Rebuilds

Studios for six stations in Lake Charles, La., spring up after hurricanes

One in a series of articles from the recent Radio World ebook “Spectacular Radio Studios.”

In 2020, less than two months apart, Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Delta hit the studios of Cumulus Media in Lake Charles, La.

Its building was left unusable. 

“After the structural issues were addressed, including replacing the roof and repairing every wall, floor and ceiling, we completely rewired the entire building, and rebuilt studios for each station,” said Greg Davis, chief engineer for Cumulus in Lake Charles and in Beaumont, Texas, an hour to the west.

The Lake Charles stations include KYKZ 96.1, KKGB(FM) Rock 101, KBIU(FM) Hot 103.3, KQLK(FM) Nash Icon 97.9, KAOK(AM) SuperTalk 1400 and KXZZ(AM) Sports Radio 1580. 

“The combination of a city in disaster recovery, coupled with a global pandemic, created issues that were unforeseeable,” Davis said.

“First, finding a construction crew was difficult, as everyone in town was looking for one, and the large majority of people had left town because their homes were destroyed. Then the crews would get sick, which would cause delays. And finally, supply chain issues caused additional delays waiting on materials and supplies.”

The project included seven studios and two production rooms. Work wrapped up in early 2022.

“Since water penetrated all exterior walls, we also had to completely replace the TOC,” Davis said. “This included BSI’s OpX automaton, network equipment, streaming, satellite and station monitoring equipment. We installed a Comrex Access system for remotes. And we rebuilt all sales, business and office staff’s offices.”

The Technical Operations Center also had to be rebuilt.

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The project leader was corporate Director of Engineering Robert Combs, with studio design and organization by VP of Engineering Michael Gay. The studio construction crew was headed by VP of Technical Operations Yancy McNair and included Justin Tucker, Bryan Waters, Sam Michaels, Bobby Dotson and Josh Hartin, most of whom came in from other markets to help.

Greg Davis coordinated the local contractors, monitored their progress and advised them on the special needs of a broadcast facility, while assembling and wiring studios along with the visiting engineers.

Stefanie Adams at work in KKGB’s control room.

Key components include Axia iQx consoles, Telos VX Broadcast VoIP phone system, Omnirax furniture, EV RE20 mics, Wheatstone mic processors, Yellowtec mic arms, Cisco switches, Gatesair IPLinks and Middle Atlantic racks.  

 “While the studios were unusable, we brought our BSI OpX automation system to our neighboring market in Beaumont, Texas,” he said. 

“We used GatesAir IPLink200 units to transport audio over the internet. Though internet was difficult to come by immediately after, we later installed ViaSat satellite internet. While this was not ideal, it worked well to provide quality audio to the site when there were no local internet providers available.”

Most of the new equipment was purchased through Broadcasters General Store. “They worked very hard to make sure we receive everything we needed, even in a time when some things were hard to come by.”