Columbia Installs New Radio Tower for Student-Led WCRX

Perched upon Columbia College Chicago’s 600 S. Michigan building, the new tower houses an antennae and transmitter that relays a clearer and more reliable signal to downtown Chicago.

For four decades Columbia’s student-led radio station WCRX has been providing students hands-on opportunities to develop programming, hone their on-air skills, produce podcasts, engage in voice over work, and create engaging copy for radio promos and radio stories. And just recently, that station got a huge boost: a brand-new antennae and transmitter tower perched upon Columbia’s 15-story 600 S. Michigan Avenue building. 

The new 20-foot tower presents opportunities for the radio station to reach Columbia students, faculty, and staff on campus — and all of downtown Chicago and the lakefront — with a clearer and more reliable signal in high definition.

“People who are here for Lollapalooza, attending the community art festivals or any downtown event, can tune in WCRX at 88.1 FM on Lakeshore Drive, and can hear WCRX crystal clear,” says Matt Cunningham, assistant professor of instruction, Communication department, and WCRX’s faculty advisor.

That’s a big improvement, Cunningham says. The previous tower used by WCRX was located west of downtown Chicago. That aging tower sits on a eight-story building, with downtown high-rises blocking the signals for downtown listeners. While someone driving on Chicago’s West Side could enjoy the many offerings of WCRX, the tower’s signals did not consistently reach those in the Loop. 

The installation of the Tower took years of planning and research and finally came to fruition late Spring. It was a collaborative effort, Cunningham says, with Columbia’s own audio tech experts — including Director of Audio Engineering David Knuth and Assistant Technical Engineer Stephen Emling, an adjunct faculty member, from Audio Arts and Acoustics — playing a significant role along with Columbia’s facilities team and the outside firm Inrush Broadcast Services. 

The Tower promises to bring nothing but good things to WCRX, students, and returning and new listeners.

“My vision is to capitalize on this and become the voice of the arts of the city in some way,” Cunningham says.