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17 Studios in the “Heart of America”

A peek inside Cumulus Kansas City's fine new home 

On-air studio of Cumulus Kansas City project

This story is excerpted from the Radio World ebook “Spectacular Radio Studios.”

Just before the pandemic hit, Cumulus Media’s Kansas City cluster designed and built out a stunning new facility with 17 studios at a new location in the Corporate Woods office park in Overland Park, Kan. The lease was set to expire on its old location.

Signals served by the new facility include FM stations KCFX, KCMO, KCHZ, KMJK and KCJK; AM station KCMO; KCFX HD2 with translator K279BI; and KCMO HD2 with translator K273BZ.

Construction began in October 2019 and the installation team was given access to the space in January 2020. The migration began in early March, just as the pandemic was ramping up in the United States.

“We moved from a hybrid facility that was 20-plus years old and was a mixture of analog, digital and AoIP technology to a facility that is 100% AoIP,” said Market Engineering Manager Dennis Eversoll. “This included not only the studio audio but also STL paths that were converted to AoIP.”

Cumulus Vice President of Engineering Michael Gay handled the extensive planning, and VP of Technical Operations Yancy McNair was the lead for the physical portions of the installation. Eversoll and his team provided support and muscle as needed while also handling the ongoing engineering needs of the cluster.

The main planning contractor was SHP Architects, which has done several other projects for Cumulus including a similar one in Chicago. The facility buildout was by local contractor Baron Construction, which also handled the IT infrastructure based on design instructions from Cumulus.

Telos Alliance provided the AoIP backbone and 17 Axia control surfaces, including 12 Fusion and five iQ models.

A new BSI OpX audio delivery system was installed using Axia drivers.

The studios have 66 Shure KSM44A large-diaphragm, side-address condensers interfaced with Wheatstone M-2 two-channel digital mic processors. Omnirax furniture was custom ordered.

Audio processors feed Gates Air IP Link 200 audio codecs that are linked to the transmitter sites via an MPLS circuit. For redundancy these units allow an automatic failover to a secondary IP source such as standard internet available at each site.

The studios are equipped with ESE clocks as well as a Paravel Systems WallTime system that provides time synchronization.

Color coding of the studios is based on colors in the Cumulus logo, primarily blue. Window and door surfaces throughout feature a material that emulates etched glass; that work was done by a local design contractor, Digital Lagoon.

Technical Operations Center at Cumulus Kansas City

The 21 racks in the TOC are equipped with Tripp Lite surge suppressors. Power for the studio area passes through an Eaton 40 KVA UPS, with a 250 KW Cummins Onan generator system as a backup power source.

“Given the exclusivity of the office park, the generator was equipped with a sound-baffled enclosure that renders it virtually ‘sound invisible’ while operating,” Eversoll said. “The unit was sized to run the entire floor — all systems including the HVAC.”

He is enthusiastic about the results.

“In all my 50-plus years as a broadcast engineer, I had always handled a studio move within the local staff so the ‘team approach’ was new to me,” said Eversoll.

“The project went incredibly well and turned out to be an amazing feat of engineering, kudos to Michael Gay and Yancy McNair and the upwards of 30 Cumulus engineers who helped out during the project’s 12 weeks of the wiring and setup phase. The facility turned out to be a real showplace.”