After nearly 40 years of broadcasting, KSUT is ready for an upgrade. The prominent nonprofit station is fundraising for a fresh start in a new facility, a mere 200 yards from the current location in Ignacio.
It hasn’t been a piece of cake, though. The publicly funded FM station has dealt with cramped working quarters, a limited budget and outdated equipment for several years. The current facility is about 1,300 square feet and houses two separate signals – Four Corners Public Radio and the Southern Ute Tribal Radio – and 11 employees.
The station has big plans – estimated at $1.8 million – to renovate a building and buy modern broadcast equipment. KSUT hopes the new 5,000-square-foot facility will be in use by spring of 2015.
“For us to grow, we really need a new facility,” said Bruce Campbell, development director for KSUT. “Plus, the building is really old and somewhat of a health hazard. But it’s been a good home for all these years.”
The building is so cramped that some employees’ desks are in hallways, he said. It also lacks a production facility.
As of now, the station cannot do off-air productions of radio broadcasts, he said.
The National Public Radio affiliate has operated in the existing building for about 25 years. The station was founded by the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and continues to receive support from the tribe. KSUT-FM can be heard on a variety of frequencies including 90.1 in Durango, 100.1 in Montezuma County, 105.3 in Pagosa Springs and Farmington, and 98.3 in Silverton.
The plan, Campbell said, is to completely renovate and move into the former shipping-and-receiving building used for the Southern Ute Indian Casino. The building, located on tribal grounds, will be leased from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.
It also has infrastructure, plumbing and heating. However, the facility needs a lot of renovations to be suitable for office space and ensure the growth of the station, he said. The building is valued at $650,000 and is a lead gift – a large gift to launch a capital campaign – from the tribe, Campbell said.
Though the base of the building is there, KSUT still needs more than $1 million to cover renovation and equipment costs. The technology currently used is more than 20 years old.
“They don’t make replacement parts for the control boards,” Campbell said. “If something breaks, it’s usually just duct-taped.”
KSUT needs about $500,000 to renovate the old warehouse. That breaks down to about $100 per square foot. The cost of purchasing new broadcast equipment and building adequate studio space will be between $300,000 and $500,000.
Thus far, KSUT has raised about $100,000 from individual donors. Also, because the station is member-funded, it relies heavily on donations from listeners to subsist.
The preliminary planning for the entire project began about five years ago when a need for space, programming, production studios and modern technology was identified.
New technology costs a good chunk of change.
KSUT hopes to afford two on-air studios, one for each substation. The two production studios would allow it to produce programming and serve as backups in case equipment fails or additional space is needed. Also, minor changes need to be made such as replacing copper wires with Ethernet cables.
Planning is easier said than done.
KSUT is still facing many obstacles to pull off the massive project.
Leasing the building from the tribe took a substantial amount of time and paperwork.
When leasing tribal property you must go through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Campbell explained. Then, finalizing an agreeable lease was a two-year process, he said.
The KSUT team has long-term goals of increasing programming, local news and public affairs.
“We don’t have the facility,” Campbell said. “We don’t have the capability to provide that type of programming in a sustainable fashion.”
The building itself will be dedicated to Eddie Box Jr. and will be called the Eddie Box Jr. Media Center. Box has been a pivotal character in the growth and development of KSUT. His father, Eddie Box Sr., founded the station alongside Leonard Burch, former chairman of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.
Box Jr. has served as a board member for almost 37 years, and he’s been president for about 25 of those. He still hosts a music show on the tribal substation.
In an informational booklet provided by KSUT, Box Jr. expressed his enthusiasm for the station’s future: “I always had a dream that KSUT would be heard off the tip of South America. Then, lo and behold, there comes a response from someone listening online from the South Pole. My father, along with other tribal leaders, started KSUT nearly 40 years ago as a small tribal radio station. I have been involved with KSUT since that day, as a DJ and on the board of directors, serving as the president for more than 25 years. I have seen many people from all communities give incredible amounts of time, energy and money to make KSUT a success. I invite you to join me, as I continue to give KSUT all that I have, as this radio station is in my blood.”
The station is a unifying force within the Four Corners, Campbell said, connecting those communities together.
KSUT is a long-running nonprofit in the Four Corners, he said. The station reaches across five counties: La Plata, Archuleta, Montezuma, San Juan (Colorado) and San Juan (New Mexico).
Listeners and community members will have the opportunity to play a major role in the fundrasing campaign come spring 2015. The station also plans to host various fundrasing events throughout the year, as usual.
People interested in learning more about the campaign right now can contact Campbell at 563-0255.
According to KSUT’s tentative timeline, a ribbon-cutting for the new facility will be held in spring 2015.