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March 17, 2006
Contact: Todd Cohen, University Relations, (785) 864-8858.

KU to dismantle original 1924 radio tower due to damage from Sunday’s wind storm

The tower for KU's first radio station,
KFKU, is visible behind Marvin Hall in
a 1926 photograph from Robert
Taft's history "Across the Years on
Mount Oread 1866-1941."

LAWRENCE — Because of damage caused by Sunday’s wind storm, the University of Kansas next week will dismantle an 82-year-old radio tower that broadcast the university’s first radio station and presently serves the student radio station KJHK, officials said today.

High winds slammed a 10-by-30 foot section of roof from the adjacent Art and Design Building into the lower midsection of the self-supporting steel tower located behind Marvin Hall, bending some of of the supports, said Bob Rombach, university fire marshal and special projects manager for Design and Construction Management.

“The age of the tower does not make it conducive to repair,” Rombach said.

KJHK’s communication cable on the tower also was hit squarely by the roof section. Because of the kink in the cable, KJHK has only been able to operate at half its full 2900-watt power since the storm. The radio station was off the air for two days after the storm because of a power outage.

KJHK’s antenna will be relocated to the Kansas Public Radio tower on west campus. During the transition, KJHK will be off the air Sunday evening and will temporarily broadcast only though its Web site — www.kjhk.org — starting midnight March 27.

“We are hopeful we will resume broadcasting at 90.7 FM at the end of that week,” said Andrew Dierks, KJHK general manager.

Two large cranes will be brought to campus Tuesday. It will take workers two to four days to take apart the tower at an estimated cost of $25,000, Rombach said. A wide area around the tower will be cordoned off for safety. KU is on spring break from tomorrow through March 26.

Repairs to the Art and Design roof is estimated to cost about $400,000.

The 185-foot tower was built in 1924 to broadcast KU’s first radio station, KFKU, which began transmitting Dec. 15, 1924, with a concert by the KU band and speech by Chancellor Ernest Lindley. Following a request from the engineering faculty, the state legislature had allocated $20,000 for the tower and station.

KFKU initially broadcast live Monday and Thursday evenings, offering lectures to supplement correspondence courses in such topics as philosophy and Spanish. The station also broadcast special events including KU basketball, faculty recitals and commencement. After KANU, now Kansas Public Radio, went on the air in 1952, KFKU was eventually reduced to an hour and then a half-hour broadcast on WREN, a Topeka radio station that began in Lawrence. It went silent when WREN went off the air in 1987.

KJHK, which began as a student-run radio station in the journalism school and is now operated by the KU Memorial Unions Corp., has had its antenna on the Marvin Hall tower since its inception in 1975.

On Sept. 6, 1975, a Sikorsky helicopter from the “Flying Cranes” of the Kansas National Guard’s 137th Aviation Company lowered the KJHK antenna to the tower. KJHK went on the air a month later on Oct. 15.

Read more about KFKU at www.kuhistory.com/proto/story.asp?id=101. Read more about KJHK history at www.kuhistory.com/proto/story.asp?id=24.

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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