The royal treatment of college radio

Let’s be honest. The greatness that was once college radio is wanning. I have this deep, passionate feeling that it will rise up once again to be a driving force to make the rest of the world take notice. It might also be safe to say that it’s never been a spectrum of the medium to really be noticed in the first place. The brilliance gets harvested for its potential and profit.

I’m still a firm believer in the sanctity of college radio. Like it or not, it has an important role to play, and that mantra was my driving force during the years I put into KRUI.

I find the following story really funny, and I’ll explain why after the excerpt.

UI officials hope to raze an old laundry building that is adjacent to where a new campus recreation and wellness center’s future home on the southwest corner of Burlington and Madison streets.

Currently used as storage for campus landscaping and maintenance equipment, that space could be used for parking and holding materials and equipment during the construction of the recreation center, and could save the university money. It is not immediately clear how much it would save.

Regents gave approval for UI to look into the feasibility of relocating the equipment currently stored there. [presscitizen]

The KRUI that I came to know and love started out in a house that was tucked away on campus. But the university kinda saw it as a bastard child, pushing it into a handful of various locations in its just under twenty years of existence. Within just a few months of my three years of being a director, the news came that the station would be forced into another relocation.

We toured lots of locations, including the one mentioned in the story above. That’s why I find this somewhat hilarious. The area mentioned actually experienced some damage from a direct tornado hit on the downtown area over the summer, but that building was a hole long before that. All the equipment used for snow removal was kept in the lower level of the building, not to mention that was where they would work on those things. The sounds of machinery, hammers, welding, and everything else going on in the background would not make for ideal broadcast situations.

You could look down chutes and grates in the floor and see this stuff below you. As one of the technical guys on these tours to give my input, officials couldn’t quite understand what so lacking on the space. Yes, the “space” was adequate for a radio station, especially of our size and caliber, but the amount of work to get the place into hospitable conditions would have been horrendous. Thinking back on it now, I don’t think I would have let anyone into that place without a tetanus shot.

It didn’t get better after a resounding no from our end was agreed upon for that location. The next place we looked at has already been torn down for quite some time. Directly on the corner of Burlington and Madison, there was a building that would have been incredible to call home. Two stories and more space than we could have dreamed about. A studio looking out at one of the busiest intersections on campus, what more could we ask for?

No termites. The place was so over-run with an infestations that the ground level would need massive reinforcement to support the weight of extra people in the building, not to mention the furniture, equipment, and loads of music. There was an empty claim that would be extended by UI officials to look into making this the last stop on our search for a new home, but a “final decision” would undermine a cooperative effort on this project. Dean Phil Jones said that a smaller, even more lacking house would be the indefinite location of a new home.

Long story short, a battle ensued between our board of directors and the school administration. Press releases, protests, on-air soliciting, high stress levels, and many long nights later, we finally saw eye to eye. Instead of moving into a temporary location for the next unknown amount of years until a more permanent home would be found, we skipped to the end and shot for something solid.

A slight addition to the story was that this resolution was after we were in negotiations with the Old Capitol Mall to put the station in one of their retail spaces. They were serious about cutting a deal that would ensure a better location than the house we were being forced to move into.

The first two years of the lease would be free, and the owners were very sympathetic to our effort. A potential marriage made in heaven, and we had the space that looked directly into the PedMall[wiki], just above the main entrance on Dubuque Street. The mall, at that point, was half empty and in desperate need of help. Their plan, in return for getting us in there, was to have KRUI advertise all the businesses at no charge for those first two years.

Once the administration caught wind of our deal, space was magically found in the student union. Truth be told, a faculty government organization was kicked out and we moved in. On top of that, it’s an unsaid fact that the UI would love to see the Old Capitol Mall go away, buy up the location, tear it down, and build more of the campus on top of it. Much to the UI’s dismay, the mall has done okay for itself over the past five years, but that hasn’t stopped it from moving in on the vacant retail spaces with offices for various departments and student orginizations. Another way of saying it is that you could almost call this a gradual take over.

All I can say is that once the talk of the deal with the mall reached the Dean’s office, things changed quickly. One morning, I wake up to a phone call and am in a meeting a few hours later with administrators saying the concept of moving into the mall or another house was over. For them, it was a matter of coming to an understanding. For us, it was much more than that.

It kills me that the first location that we looked at is about to be demolished. The second one that made our hearts swoon with hope and ideas was gone before we even got started. I think it’s a parking lot now.