WNIU to change locations

By Dan O'Shea

WNIU’s search for a new home might finally be over.

NIU will borrow $650,000 from the NIU Foundation to convert the former Palmer Music Building, located on the far east side of campus, into a new NIU broadcast center, said Tom Montiegel, NIU vice president for development and alumni relations.

WNIU General Manager Mike Lazar is optimistic about the move. “We’re pretty certain about the latest plan. All the hurdles have been cleared. We’ve never gone this far with the project, and by far this is the best offer we’ve had.”

“WNIU will go from having one of the worst broadcast facilities in public radio to one of the top five in the country,” he said.

“Getting better facilities was a priority when I got here, and I’ve been here 12 years. This is the eighth move I’ve either been promised or asked to develop plans for,” he said.

The NIU Foundation bought the two-story Palmer Building in 1986 for $375,000, primarily to insure added future access to the east NIU campus.

“The Foundation will actually be serving as the financial agent to facilitate the necessary renovations and remodeling of the center,” Montiegel said. “At the end of ten years, the Foundation will give the building to Northern.”

“Through a contract for purchase over a ten year period, the Foundation will be able to pay off the loan and its interest costs. In effect, the university will get the building just for the cost of the renovations,” he said.

Lazar said the project “is not without some risk as the station will be funding a portion of the remodeling costs from its own local funds. There also will be considerable equipment costs for the new studios, which we hope to fund through major grants and a capital fundraising campaign.”

Lazar said WNIU will pay about 38 percent of the project costs. The center will house most of the operations of WNIU-FM. The public radio station offers a mix of classical music, jazz and news and public affairs programs to an estimated 25,000 listeners.

Lazar said an architect for the project will be chosen next week. If all goes according to plan, the radio station, which will celebrate its 35th anniversary in October, will settle into its new home by March, 1990.

The new broadcast center also will contain space for WKDI-FM, NIU’s student-run radio station, as well as auxiliary offices and studios for the Northern Illinois Radio Information Service, WNIU’s reading service for the blind.

In addition, the new center will include a performance studio, control room and conference classroom that might be used by the NIU School of Music and the College of Engineering.

Music school Chairman Donald Funes said, “Nothing is certain yet, but Mike (Lazar) and I and Peter Middleton (head of recording operations at the music school) discussed the possibility of future cooperation if the center were to include a recording studio and recording equipment.

“If the funds were available to extend our facilities, it would be something we’d be interested in,” Funes said.