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NBC 5 begins move from longtime home on Broadcast Hill in Fort Worth

Posted 8:13am on Wednesday, Oct. 02, 2013

Compared with its 65-year-old facilities on Broadcast Hill in east Fort Worth, everything at KXAS/NBC 5’s shiny new station on Amon Carter Boulevard south of Dallas/Fort Worth Airport is larger, faster and designed to accommodate new technology for the next 20 years.

Starting this weekend, and for the next month, NBC 5 will move in stages from the two-story Spanish/Mediterranean-style building where it has always been located to its new studio 18 miles away. Sales and marketing are among the first groups to move; the newsroom will be last.

Executives expect to flip the switch and begin broadcasting from the new station by the end of October.

“We’re pretty proud to show this off,” Tom Ehlmann, the station’s president and general manager, said during a tour Monday. “There’s lots of technology in this building.”

After four years of painstaking planning, the technology and spaces designed into the 75,000-square-foot facility create the ultimate work environment for broadcast journalists in the digital age, station executives said.

The new facility at 4805 Amon Carter Blvd., in the CentrePort Business Park, is a neighbor of American Airlines and is near the center of the Metroplex, Ehlmann says. It’s right where the station wants to be, making it easier to get to breaking news stories in any direction, he said.

The newsroom, control rooms and data center technology catapult the station light-years from 1948, when a “new era of communications” was ushered in with the launch of WBAP, the first TV station in Texas and the Southwest. WBAP was owned by Amon G. Carter Sr., the late publisher of the Star-Telegram.

The vast new newsroom has 108 workstations, each equipped with three computer monitors, where writers, editors and producers for NBC 5 and KXTX/Telemundo 39, which broadcasts in Spanish, will gather the news daily.

Adjoining the newsroom is a 1,000-square-foot Media Operations Center where news staffers will control and see images from more than 500 sources on monitors.

From the lobby, visitors can look beyond two sets of glass doors directly into the newsroom, “truly the core of the facility,” said Matt Varney, the station’s vice president of technology, who oversaw the project.

NBC 5 and Telemundo each have 2,600-square-foot sets across a hallway from each other, which will be revealed to viewers when the station begins to broadcast from there.

The station is not allowing any photographs of the sets, saying they are not quite complete. But the technology will include touch-screen monitors and LED lighting, among other things. NBC 5’s studio has four weather areas where meteorologists can work at one time.

Sales and marketing are elsewhere in the building, including one of four national sales offices for NBC Universal Syndication Group and ArtWorks, a 24/7, 30-employee operation that provides graphics to NBC Universal-owned stations nationwide.

NBC 5 is consolidating about 300 employees into the new space. NBC 5 is one of the stations owned by NBC Universal, which also has 17 Telemundo stations.

Koll Development, which developed CentrePort, built the station and is leasing the property to NBC 5. It’s on 8 acres of the former Greater Southwest International Airport, which closed when DFW Airport opened.

The station designed the interior to be so flexible that it can be easily dismantled and reconfigured to meet needs, Varney said.

That would be impossible at the current station, where offices and studios have been reconfigured and mashed so many times over six decades that it created a maze.

There were no television station prototypes when WBAP was built, so that station was fashioned after a movie studio, said Brian Hocker, the station’s vice president of programming. The newsroom was last remodeled in 2004.

“The technology since then has changed so much,” Hocker said, adding that the new station is “built for the technology of today and the work flow.”

The new station has more editing bays, conference rooms and work areas, a green room, nine private phone rooms, makeup and dressing rooms, a fitness center and break areas.

The building has a total of 350 televisions, including seven 65-inch screens in the lobby. The data center has 1.5 million feet of cable.

The exterior includes a 114-foot microwave tower designed to resemble an air traffic control tower to pay homage to its location. The only nods to its past on Broadcast Hill are images in conference rooms of personalities like popular entertainment reporter Bobbie Wygant, Harold Taft, the station’s first meteorologist, and Amon G. Carter Sr. A few antique studio lights have been refurbished and are being used in the employee Peacock Cafe.

The station received an 85 percent tax abatement of real and business personal property taxes over 25 years, worth about $2.5 million, from the city. As part of the agreement, the station will convey its current building and 26-acre site, off Interstate 30 near Oakland Boulevard, to the city. That is scheduled to happen in March, Ehlmann said.

A recent report said there is little commercial interest in redeveloping Broadcast Hill. The city has been assessing the facility and should complete a report on its possible use by the end of the year, said Jay Chapa, the city’s interim financial management services director.

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727 Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST

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