Ames community radio station goes live


Photo: William Deaton/Iowa State Daily

Ames’ own community radio station went live for the first time Feb. 15 because the station set up a link to a nearby tower which can now reach a potential audience of 480,000 listeners.

Alexander Furman

The locally run Ames radio station, KHOI FM 89.1 The Pantorium, has recently set up their new station to tower link, and Feb. 15, it went live for the first time.

The event was a fundraiser to get pledges and donations from the community to help fund their renovations to create broadcast studios in the back.

“We want to have three recording spaces; we’ll have two big ones that are soundproof and one will be a little bigger than the other so that we can have a number of people who want to have things like a round table discussion,” said Director Debeorah Bunka.

“In the back there’s a closet that will be for one person who will be doing things like narrations.”

The broadcast studios are set to be built starting next month.

The radio station, which is comprised of its board of directors and run completely by volunteer citizens, hasn’t been able to run live radio because of the geography of Ames.

Ames was originally marshland and was at a much lower elevation than Story City, where the tower is located.

In order to have the ability to broadcast live, there needs to be a direct link, which was impossible until they discovered how to run fiber optic cables to a local grain elevator and put a receiver on it.

Before the new receiver, members of the station had to record the day’s events prior, put it on a flash drive, then drive all the way to the tower and upload them to a computer.

The event was filled with local citizens who came to support the nonprofit radio station.

“My mom volunteers here. On Facebook, I’m friends with the organization. I went to a concert here a couple of months ago — the Pandemonium at the Pantorium,” supporter Sarah Whaley said.

A nonprofit radio station can have its obstacles, but for now, the board is confident things will fall into place.

“Because we didn’t start with big equipment or anything, we’ve had to learn production from the very bottom up. Every single recorder here has to know how to edit their own stuff, they have to know how to put a show together, we don’t have producers to do that for us, and we’re our own producers,” Bunka said.

“Because of all that, I think we have a higher quality radio. The people have just taken to it.”

The radio station has been around since 2007, but it wasn’t until a rare move by the Federal Communications Commission the same year that sparked the move from a cramped church basement to their current location.

“KHOI is a result of the fact that back in 2007, the FCC opened up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Being able to apply for a noncommercial radio license is a very rare event. We discovered that there was an opening in Ames and so we applied and got the permission from them,” said Ursula Ruedenberg, chairwoman of the board of directors.

KHOI had to beat out 11 other applicants from the Ames area alone.

With limited funds, they had to move into the old Pantorium Dry Cleaners on Douglass Avenue in downtown Ames. The cleaners were family owned and shut down after the owners retired.

The energy hasn’t wavered yet, and the board has been surprised by the reception and support for the radio.

“It’s, like, we have some incredible, positive energy. It’s just been really miraculous; the people have just come in when we needed them,” Bunka said.

After setting up the link from the station to the tower, directors also found they were able to reach twice as far as originally thought, with the potential for 480,000 listeners.

In the past KHOI has hosted “Pandemonium in the Pantorium” and free workshops where volunteers will teach anyone how to edit content.

In the future they plan on hosting events at Band Shell Park and, starting on April Fool’s Day, clips of bloopers the studios have had since they started.

The Pantorium is located at 410 Douglass Avenue, just off Main Street.