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November 16, 2012

Radio group enjoying new downtown digs

Four stations now under one roof

TERRE HAUTE — After more than half a century in a former garment factory building on Ohio Street, top-rated local radio station WTHI-FM has landed in a new nest, high above Wabash Avenue.

The radio station, along with three sister stations, celebrated its new digs with an open house Thursday afternoon.

“It’s nice to have fresh, new surroundings,” said Diane House, a longtime on-air personality at WTHI-FM Hi-99. “It’s exciting to work in state-of-the-art facilities.”

The broadcast operation, with 21 full- and four part-time employees, occupies half of the third floor of the new office building at 925 Wabash Ave., constructed in the past year by Thompson Thrift, a Terre Haute developer.

The second floor of the building is occupied by Old National Insurance, which also moved to the new building from an older building on Ohio Street. The first floor is still vacant.

Before the move, which took place in August, Hi-99 and sister station WWVR-FM 105.5 operated out of 918 Ohio St., a building that once housed the Stahl-Urban Co., a garment manufacturer. That building, constructed in 1906, is expected to be torn down soon to provide additional parking for the new 925 Wabash building.

The move to a new location coincides with the recent purchase by Indianapolis-based Emmis Communications, which owns WTHI-FM and WWVR-FM, of two other Wabash Valley radio stations: the former WSDX-AM 1130 and WSDM-FM 92.7. Those stations had been operated by Colorado-based Crossroads Communications.

In February, the AM station, now called WFNF-AM “The Fan,” a sports-talk station, will have a stronger signal. Emmis is also applying for an FM signal for the station, said James Conner, vice president and general manager for the Emmis stations in Terre Haute.

Conner said he has lots of ideas for WFNF. “I’m a sports fanatic.”

Once the remaining Federal Communications Commission hurdles have been cleared for the larger Emmis operations in Terre Haute, the company plans to add about two new jobs, Conner said. The business has also added staff with the move to a new facility, he said.

Lighted “On-Air” signs above the doors of clean, sound-proof studios illuminate the main hallway of the building, which was designed as a radio operation from the ground up, Conner noted.

And Conner and the rest of the broadcasters enjoy one of the best office-window views available in Terre Haute. From their third-floor, west-facing windows, the Emmis staff can look straight down Wabash Avenue to a scene punctuated in the distance by the dome of the Vigo County Courthouse.

“We’re very excited,” Conner said, adding that the new place “even smells great.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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