RIVER FALLS — Until recently, University of Wisconsin-River Falls alumni who ventured up to the campus radio station would have found the studio much the same as it was for decades.
Old carpeting, aging equipment, cobbled-together office furniture and an awkwardly arranged studio were fixtures in the third-floor North Hall space.
Thanks to more than $100,000 in upgrades installed in recent weeks, students this fall will experience an overhauled WRFW facility — complete with new audio equipment, a refurbished newsroom space and a roomier studio.
“It’s not like students are walking in here and feeling like it’s from the 1950s,” said UWRF instructor and WRFW manager Rick Burgsteiner.
The upgrades were part of a two-phase project that first saw the space gutted to the tune of about $68,000. The second phase provided a $45,000 facelift, which is more than cosmetic. Burgsteiner said new audio equipment was installed by Radio DNA, a Minneapolis-based firm that services stations around the country.
Funds for the upgrades came from the university and alumni donations, journalism professor Sandy Ellis said.
Rooms in the refurbished space bear the names of influential people in the station’s history. There’s the Al Murray Studio, the Michael Norman Newsroom and the Lorin Robinson Studio.
The new digs were a breath of fresh air for alumni Terri Rosenstock and Maleah Gilles, who stopped by the facility last month while visiting campus. The two hosted the “Terri and Maleah Show” in the early 2000s, which meant toting armloads of their own CDs to the studio for each program.
“It’s definitely more digital,” Rosenstock said while perusing the new Al Murray Studio.
The remodel transformed that studio, which used to have the DJ console at the front of the room. That meant on-air guests were stuck awkwardly behind the DJ.
The new Al Murray Studio has the DJ console in the back of the room, where state-of-the-art microphones surround a table where guests can join in the conversation without having to be at the DJ’s back.
Burgsteiner said he hopes the new look will re-energize students who want to try their hand at being a campus disc jockey — an opportunity he said is open to all students. Before the facelift, the older facilities were making it “harder and harder to inspire students.”
“We now have a cool facility that is for students,” he said.
He and Ellis said they had been seeking upgrade funding for about 20 years. With a highly competitive funding environment in the UW-System, it was a struggle to get money for the River Falls campus radio station.
“These opportunities,” Burgsteiner said of the funding, “are extremely rare.”
He said he hopes it will draw a new generation of students to campus radio — one he said attendees at last year’s 50th anniversary party for WRFW recalled as an indelible college memory.
“It’s one of those truly unique experiences,” he said.