Work is continuing on a huge facility project that is bringing 11 Clear Channel radio stations in San Diego under one roof. The project is a consolidation of four studio locations into a single, new 70,000-square-foot space, located on Serra Mesa north of downtown.
The first stations moved into the empty building shell in February 2001. The facility now houses six FM and four AM stations with 38 studios and control rooms. Another FM has yet to make the move.
Managing the project is Kevin Douglass, director of engineering for Clear Channel in San Diego, who is advised by Al Kenyon, the company’s vice president of engineering/technology, and Steve Davis, VP of engineering/capital.
Yet to be completed are a control room, four production rooms, five news booths and a performance studio with control room.
“We’re at least a year away from being completely finished,” Douglass said.
Douglass said the facility is home to AM stations news/talker KOGO; sports-formatted XETRA; talker KSDO and talk/standards station KPOP, as well as FM stations alternative XETRA; CHR station KHTS; oldies KJQY/KJOY; ‘80s format KMSX; classic rocker KGB; and rock station KIOZ.
Yet to come is “old school” station XHRM(FM).
SAS and Prophet
Audio mass storage needs are being handled by a big-capacity Prophet Systems NexGen management system.
“Ours is the largest one devoted to over-the-air radio in the U.S., and the third-largest in the world,” Douglass said; the system offers more than 1 Terabyte of storage using a compression ratio of 5.5 to 1. Prophet is a division of Clear Channel Communications.
For routing, Clear Channel went with a Sierra Automated Systems SAS 64000 Audio Routing Switcher.
“The configuration selected by Clear Channel has an exceptionally high packaging density: 256×192 mixed mono and stereo channels in only two frames,” according to a description from SAS. “It supports analog and digital I/O and can be reconfigured to a full stereo system if the need arises. The control software allows adjacent inputs or outputs to be linked as stereo pairs and treated as one source or destination.”
Douglass said the SAS switcher showed its versatility when the stations had to cover the events of Sept. 11.
“KOGO took the lead locally in reporting the story as it developed. During the predawn hours here on the West Coast, engineers and newspersons were awakened and called into the station in a major effort to stay abreast of events as they unfolded.
“All of Clear Channel’s San Diego properties dropped their normal programming and took the KOGO news feed. … We needed to do innumerable major or minor reconfigurations of our audio plant, sometimes on a minute-to-minute basis, to keep up with the story.
“The number of sources and changes to them has been staggering. We have produced and distributed spot news; long- and short-form programming; and locally and nationally broadcast network talk shows. These efforts have been distributed over the air locally, and throughout the nation via satellite, ISDN, POTS codec, and probably dial-up telco coupler.”
Even though the plant is currently analog, the studio-to-master control and studio-to-Prophet cabling is Gepco 24-pair digital.
“Analog was chosen for two reasons,” Douglass said. “First, no one could give me a rational, supportable, dollars-and-cents reason to go digital. There was no discernable return on investment for our situation here.
“Second, we can maintain and repair analog. Digital is a board swap, with the attendant cost of maintaining a sufficient stock of spare boards.”
Most consoles in the San Diego facility are new or refurbished Pacific models, including BMX-II, BMX-III, AMX-34, AMX-14, ABX-26 and Integrity mixers. A Mackie 8/32 is used in the performance control room.
Transmitters were not part of this project. The FMs use Continental 816s. For the AM stations, KOGO has two Gates 5s as the main/alternate main plus an RCA BTA-5F backup that Douglass calls “a marvelous old beast.”
XETRA has a DX-100 and a MW-100C as a backup. KSDO has a pair of Continental 316Fs. KPOP has a Harris Gates 5 with an RCA BTA-5T backup.
Moseley STLs are used, mostly analog PCL-606 and 606C models, relocated from their previous locations. There is one pair of digital SL9003Q Starlinks.
Rancho Santa Fe Technologies, a local company, is the wiring contractor. Its staff pulled and terminated cable throughout the building, including audio, control, video, data and RF.
New studio furniture was by Harris Pacific. “Scott Russell has done an outstanding job keeping the job flowing,” Douglass said.
Twenty-one rooms of new furniture were pre-wired at the factory.
“It’s still not ‘plug and play,’ by any means, but it does speed things up,” Douglass said. “The remaining rooms are using existing cabinetry we sent out to be refurbished to match the new cabinets. You can’t tell the difference, except when the bills come in. The savings is staggering.”
What has been the toughest part of the job?
“Remaining sane,” he said.