Cumulus was on its way to becoming one of the largest broadcast companies in the United States when I was hired in April of 2002 to manage the Eugene, Oregon consolidation project. Cumulus had purchased three stations from Citidel on West 11th Avenue and three others from Marathon Media.
The combined purchases made Cumulus the largest radio group in Eugene. 96.1 KZEL is a heritage rock station and KUGN is the voice of the Oregon Ducks football team. Both stations were among the group of six stations that Cumulus had planned to relocate and consolidate into a single location at 1200 Executive Parkway in Eugene. Cumulus, an Atlanta based company, didn’t have facilities near the west coast and was unable to provide on-site support for the project. I was in place to manage the project, work with outside contractors and report progress.
My recommendation upon starting with Cumulus was to build an entirely new facility while re-using only non-essential hardware, thereby keeping the current revenue stream unaffected. Cumulus had also recently purchased BSI Broadcast Software Incorporated and wanted me to replace the automation systems for each station as part of the move and consolidation.
The project was very large and difficult in scope, so from the beginning I planned to work with a team of integrators. I found a broadcast integration group from Portland, then known as Studio Works. We developed a system design for wiring and equipment, which then was presented to Cumulus as a budget for approval. An unexpected issue with the BSI automation software had me working with software programmers to enable the system to function with news and talk formats. I spent many hours working with BSI during the office space construction phase of the project.
Cumulus hired general contractors to clear 9,000 feet of space on the top floor to rebuild for business offices and studios work space. I worked with contractors to meet the needs of studio sound isolation and other equipment accommodations. In the last quarter of 2002 equipment budgets had been approved and we began building studios. There were a total of nine studios to plan and build around a centrally located rack room. Cumulus wanted this to be a digital plant, so much of the equipment including the 24 frame studio consoles were both analogue and digital ready. All of the trunk wiring to each studio was digital, but there were still analogue systems to incorporate which presented a challenge, as every application had to be uniquely designed for both formats.
The final challenge came when I realized there were not enough STL frequency allotments for all six stations to broadcast from the new location. I researched a 5.8 Ghz system which at the time was not widely recognized in the broadcast industry. Currently, it’s still in service as the digital audio link for all six stations to the main transmitter location. Throughout the time line, I was able to keep the other two locations on West 11th Avenue and the respective transmitter sites functioning while managing progress at 1200 Executive Parkway. The 1.2 million dollar project was completed by the second quarter and ready to use.
Broadcast stations were moved over one at a time following the business office. I prepared staff with a time line and pre-training to help manage expectation so the transition was as smooth as possible. The business office and servers were successfully moved over a weekend. Then, I started moving broadcast stations. KZEL was first to broadcast from Executive Parkway. The other stations followed. I hired a local contract engineer to dismantle the old studios while I made adjustments to the new facility. The Cumulus consolidation project came in on time and on budget.
Later in 2007 Cumulus would launch the first HD radio station in Eugene. I was given the opportunity to install and configure an HD transmitter and system from Harris.