Aerial view of WMAL’s AM antenna park. The transmitter building is in the lower left, partially obscured by trees.
A year and a half after it was first put up for sale, demolition has begun at WMAL(AM/FM)’s four-tower AM array in Bethesda, Md. The site had been active since WMAL put a 5,000 W transmitter into service in 1941.
A spokesperson for Cumulus corporate confirmed this in an email, saying: “Cumulus is demo-ing the transmitter [building] and has a temporary facility built right next to it. WMAL will continue to operate out of this site until the property is sold. They will then be on air from a different site in the market.”
Demolition starts on the 1940’s-era transmitter building, Sept. 19, 2016. Photo by Dave Sproul
The AM signal is 10 kW day/5 kW night, according to the FCC’s database; the station is also licensed to deliver a hybrid HD Radio signal. WMAL’s programming is also simulcast on 105.9 MHz, Woodbridge, Va. That location is unaffected by the Bethesda site sale.
Cumulus listed the 75-acre site for sale in February 2015.
In May of this year, Pennsylvania-based housing developer Toll Brothers began the process of purchasing the plot. However, the sale has not yet been finalized, in part due to snags with the development proposal, which some residents have been fighting, according to Bethesda Magazine. However, a proposed Zoning Text Amendment recently brought before the Montgomery Country Council may enable the Toll Brothers (and Cumulus) to cross this final hurdle and build a proposed 330 houses on the tower site.
Dave Sproul, who retired as chief engineer for WMAL(AM/FM) and WRQX(FM) in 2014, provided the images shown here. He also shot this cool aerial video survey of the tower site using a drone. Sproul landed his first, part-time job with WMAL in 1973.