UTICA-ROME -- After more than a year and a half on afternoon drive, market fixture Bill Keeler is headed back to his old stomping grounds -- morning drive -- effective tomorrow. The announcement was made this evening live on WXUR, and at the weekly "Saranac Thursday" party, outside the F.X. Matt Brewery in Utica.
Keeler will be staying on the same station, Arjuna Broadcasting's 92.7 The Drive (WXUR), meaning today was WXUR's last day as an affiliate of syndicated host Don Imus. The "I-Man" will still have a place on the local dial -- he moves to WXUR's sister station, ESPN Radio 1420 (WNRS). Arjuna co-owner Mindy Barstein said, "It’s important to keep Don Imus on in the market. We’re his oldest affiliate, since 1994, and this move gives us the best of both worlds." ESPN favorites Mike & Mike will be heard from 9-10am, followed by Colin Cowherd.
The new WXUR schedule is Keeler from 5:30 to 10am, followed by Jack Moran middays. Frank McBride takes over the studio from 3-7pm, and Justin Cortese will spin the hits from 7pm to midnight. Bruce Melnick returns to the lineup with a Saturday night show from 6-10pm, starting July 4th.
On top of all those changes, Operations Manager Jack Moran says the musical focus on The Drive will change somewhat: "the music will be aimed at adults 25 to 54 years of age. Artists will include Eric Clapton, Bon Jovi, Nickleback, The Stones, U2, The Who, Van Halen, Green Day, Tom Petty, The Doors, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and others."
Speaking directly with CNYRadio.com about the change, Keeler says "I just have a newfound energy and a desire to really do well there" [in mornings]. That's compared to the afternoon timeslot he held since December 2007, which he admits, "was difficult, because of our other ventures. I'd be so tired by 3pm, it was tough."
Those "other ventures" Keeler refers to include overseeing production of a Friday night TV show based on the radio show, running an advertising agency, a TV production company, and since February, operating local news website uticadailynews.com. In addition, he leases his South Utica radio studio full-time to WXUR.
Looking at everything on his plate, Keeler tells CNYRadio.com, "it's been a wild 5 or 6 years" since Keeler started his own company, but he says the operation "somehow just continues to grow and grow."
When Clear Channel's 2007 departure from the Utica-Rome market meant Keeler would be moving from Kiss-FM (WSKS/WSKU) over to WXUR, there was mixed reaction. The station's relatively weak signal (6kw at 91 meters HAAT, located closer to Herkimer than Utica) was the biggest concern. For example, WXUR is the only Utica-Rome market station we can't hear at CNYRadio.com HQ, and Keeler himself admits, "I can't hear it in my own office" on South Genesee Street in Utica.
But Keeler says soon, that will change, and "this station will be a major player in the market."
"Sometime between now and August 15th," Keeler tells us WXUR will shut down the Frankfort transmitter and begin broadcasting with a brand new digital transmitter atop Smith Hill, the lofty site that's the origin for most of the market's other radio signals, as well as the studios for every TV station in the market. Power will only increase by 400 watts, but the HAAT will more than double, to 201 meters. Barstein points out that's a power equivalency of 25kw.
According to FCC documents, WXUR's transmission antenna will be mounted on the same tower as WUNY, the Utica repeater for Syracuse's Classic FM (WCNY).
Keeler credited WXUR co-owners Mindy Barstein and Tom Davenport for their work to improve the station's reach. "She has held onto this station for years and years, even when she's had offers to sell it." Keeler says he's confident, "once people realize they can hear it in more places, it's gonna shake things up."
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