Demo Begins at WMAL Tower Site

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wmal-tx-building-demo-credit-dave-sproulNeighborhoods usually don’t want towers near them. But residents living near the WMAL(AM) towers in Bethesda, Maryland actually want them to stay. 

That’s because site owner Cumulus Media sold the 75-acre parcel to Toll Brothers which plans to build $1 million+ luxury homes on the site. The developer is working through the county’s permit application process while the surrounding neighborhood is fighting the change. Residents currently use the land as a dog park and for other recreational uses and say the planned development would overwhelm the current roads with too much traffic, reports Bethesda Magazine.

Demolition of the original transmitter building began yesterday and is expected to take several days. Construction of the site began in 1940, and it was dedicated the following year. The brick transmitter building was built to look like a colonial-style home to blend in with the surrounding houses. While it contained equipment until recently, it also served as the main studio for WMAL 630 kHz from 1960 to 1974, retired chief engineer David Sproul told Inside Towers.

The original 75-year-old four tower array remains standing; each self-supporting tower is spread at about 38 feet at the bottom to about 2 feet at the top. The towers are nearly 400 feet tall and each leg is anchored in a four-foot concrete pedestal.

The towers are expected to remain standing for some time, says Sproul. Indeed, Cumulus Media President/CEO Mary Berner said during an earnings call in August the real estate sale, expected to garner some $75 million in gross proceeds, is on-track to close “sometime in 2017.”

Several weeks ago, a new Nautel transmitter was installed in an air-conditioned shipping container placed in the parking lot, according to Sproul, feeding the signal to the towers.  “The listeners won’t hear a difference,” Sproul said.

When Cumulus does bring down the towers, it plans to co-locate its antennas on another four-tower array of an AM on Red Zebra’s WSPZ on 570 kHz in nearby Gaithersburg. That’s according to STAs filed with the FCC; Sproul confirmed the information with Inside Towers.

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