KRFC 88.9 FM is coming to an airwave near — and far from — you.
After years of work and fundraising, the Fort Collins-based community radio station will flip the switch at its new radio tower at 1 p.m. Thursday, launching a 50-kilowatt radio signal and doubling its broadcast reach in the process.
The new signal will reach north to the Wyoming border, south down the Interstate 25 corridor to north Denver, past Greeley to the east and portions of Boulder County to the south and west, KRFC Executive Director Jen Parker told the Coloradoan on Wednesday.
“It’s pretty rare for a community radio station to be building its own tower,” Parker said, noting that the project had been a topic of conversation at KRFC for many of its 19 years on air.
The new signal allows the station to expand past the 3-kilowatt signal it previously rented off a tower on a farm east of Fort Collins.
Owning its own tower also means KRFC will be able to rent space off it to other stations or organizations. That could bring more revenue in for the station to help offset the increased costs of running its own tower and signal — Parker estimated the change will make the station’s monthly power bills go from $400 to about $2,000.
No stations or organizations were renting space off the tower as of Wednesday, Parker said.
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The tower’s construction was made possible through KRFC’s Power the Tower fundraising campaign, which raised nearly $500,000 in 3½ years, according to Parker.
While KRFC’s new signal was originally expected to launch in spring 2020, the process of identifying the right piece of land for the tower and getting the necessary approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration for its construction proved complicated. The station ultimately leased land from the farmer who owns the tower it previously rented its signal from, Parker said.
The COVID-19 pandemic further snarled the project as COVID-related supply chain issues drove up construction costs, Parker said.
Despite the delay, Parker raved about the signal’s Thursday launch, calling it “an amazing accomplishment” for the largely volunteer-powered radio station.
“We have 90 DJs and 64 shows a week — 62 of them are programmed at KRFC,” Parker said, noting that KRFC’s vast volunteer programming and regular live shows are an increasing rarity in radio.
“All of our programmers have slots in our crazy schedule. They are passionate community members — lawyers, accountants, students at CSU, retirees, architects, teachers, professors, tech guys from various companies,” Parker said. “They’re incredible.”
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The station has a total of 180 volunteers and a small staff, including two full-time and six part-time employees.
The station’s new signal launch coincides with other changes at KRFC, including a new KRFC 88.9 FM app that allows users to stream its broadcast from anywhere, an upgraded video streaming option on its website and a radio digital signal that now allows listeners to see the name of the track and artist they’re listening to on their radio’s display, Parker said.
“It’s been true community radio at its finest,” Parker said of KRFC’s journey to having its own tower and signal, crediting the station’s listener members, donors, staff, volunteers and board for getting the station to this point.
“We’ve had a goal of being one of the most significant community radio stations in the country — that has been our goal, and our community really dug in and they believe in this station and what it does.”
A free concert to celebrate KRFC’s new signal will start at 4 p.m. May 21 at New Belgium Brewing, 500 Linden St. Sweet Virginia and A.J. Fullerton are set to perform, with food trucks, an auction and other festivities planned.
Erin Udell reports on news, culture, history and more for the Coloradoan. Contact her at ErinUdell@coloradoan.com. The only way she can keep doing what she does is with your support. If you subscribe, thank you. If not, sign up for a digital subscription to the Coloradoan today.