URBANA – Thanks to an emergency grant of more than $200,000, public broadcasting is continuing uninterrupted by a new 18-story building in the path of WILL's television and FM radio signals.
The Burnham310 apartment and office being built at Springfield Avenue and Fourth Street in Champaign is in the direct line of a microwave signal between WILL's studios at Campbell Hall in Urbana and a transmitter 22 miles southwest of Urbana in Monticello, according to Mark Leonard, general manager of WILL AM-FM-TV.
An emergency grant of $236,582 from the U.S. Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration will help pay for a new tower near the studios at 300 N. Goodwin Ave., U, Leonard said. The university paid for half of the tower construction, which was completed Sept. 28.
"This grant is a great relief for WILL, since we didn't have the money in our budget and we had to find an immediate solution," Leonard said. "We are grateful to the university for providing half the cost of the tower."
The old tower was 195 feet high. The new one is 250 feet tall, allowing the station's signal to pass over the new building's height of 221 feet.
Carl Caldwell, manager of WILL-TV, said the station learned around the first of year that the new building at the old Burnham Hospital site would result in permanent interruption of both TV and FM radio signals.
"When it reached a certain height, the TV and FM would be taken out," Caldwell said.
WILL staff looked at a variety of sites and options, but no other way could be found, he said.
"The only solution for us was to build a new tower that would enable us to connect with our transmitter site at Monticello to guarantee the signal will go over the new building," Caldwell said. "Going off the air was not an option."