Boise State Public Radio moves into its new broadcast center

By Emilie Ritter Saunders

After years of architectural and financial planning, Boise State Public Radio moved into its permanent broadcast facility this spring.

Since 2011, the station had been operating from two locations, separated by two miles. Our news, engineering, and programming staff were in the Simplot Micron Technology Center in the heart of BSU’s campus. Our membership, development, marketing and administrative staff had already moved into the first floor of the Yanke Family Research Park on east Parkcenter Boulevard.

Over nine months in 2013-2014, construction and engineering crews built out the second floor of the Yanke building, creating a state-of-the-art radio station that will serve southern and central Idaho listeners for many years to come. While the bulk of the construction is completed, and staff are working at the new facility, there is still work to be done.

“The last year has been marked by huge milestones for Boise State Public Radio,” says general manager John Hess. “We’re now in a space that will allow us to grow and produce high-quality radio.”

As Boise State Public Radio has grown from a small, student-operated station in the 1940s to today’s professional network of 20 NPR member stations reaching 1 million Idahoans, we’ve quickly outgrown each of our spaces along the way.

Hess says each of the station’s newsrooms and studio spaces over the years were intended to be temporary. Still, the station operated out of BSU’s Simplot Micron building for more than two decades. Rather than built-in sound-proof studios, we’d been operating out of small (in some cases 6×8 foot) boxes that weren’t conducive for in-studio interviews, live music shows, or panel discussions.

“If I had to sum it up for the people who work for Boise State Public Radio, the new space will enable them to do their best work,” says Hess. “You can be talented, smart, engaged — but if you have a microphone or a studio that doesn’t work well – all of that kind of goes out the window.”

Boise State University has donated the space inside the Ron and Linda Yanke Research Park for the station’s broadcast center. Design and construction of the space cost $1.1 million, most of which will be paid for by the generous support of our members.

Boise State Public Radio now has five times the amount of studio space that we previously had. For listeners, the investment in a permanent broadcast center means we’ll be able to produce more live programs, offer larger panel-style discussions, and have in-studio music performances.

The move also means we’ll have a greater scope of technical capabilities. In our old space, ventilation and cooling was often an issue which can damage or cause our on-air reliability to be compromised. We’d also been operating with many old systems that had been stitched together to allow our stations to function. In the new space, we’ve been able to begin upgrading tech systems which will mean our over-the-air product will continue to improve.

“We haven’t fully realized what all of the possibilities will be,” Hess says. “But Boise State Public Radio has made a huge leap forward, which is so exciting.”

You can see photos of the construction process at our Tumblr blog.

Emilie Ritter Saunders is a reporter for Boise State Public Radio, and is the secretary of the Idaho Press Club board.