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Media Construction begins on KNSD’s new Downtown studios

Media: KNSD Hopes To Take Page From ‘Today’ Show

With its future home gutted and plans under way for new studios and offices, KNSD Channel 7/39 continues to make tracks for Downtown.

The current plan has the NBC affiliate broadcasting from the Home Savings Tower on Broadway between Second and Third avenues, by the first week of October.

Certain departments could move in as early as July or August, said Phyllis Schwartz, the station’s president and general manager.

The station’s newsroom and studio will be on the building’s first level, along the north and east sides of the building. The station’s other departments will be on the third floor.

For now, architects and designers are choosing carpet swatches and light fixtures, and the station’s digital technology is being selected.

Going digital to the extreme that they’re now planning pushed the moving plans back several months, Schwartz said.

At one time, KNSD hoped to be broadcasting from the new site in June.

Schwartz and station executives have other decisions to make, including where to locate a staging center for their live-feed trucks.

The traffic at the Broadway site is too congested and the trucks simply won’t fit under the new building, Schwartz said.

She’s considering either finding a site several blocks east of the new facility, or renting or keeping part of the station’s current Kearny Mesa property.

The station owns the Kearny Mesa facility, which it has occupied since 1965.

‘Very Expensive’

The ongoing development in Downtown, the ballpark and East Village in particular, was one of the main reasons for the “very expensive” project, said Schwartz, who came to KNSD in December 1999. She wouldn’t give further details on the project’s cost.

Schwartz discussed the move’s origins. Before arriving at KNSD, she had been working on related projects in her former position as vice president of news and creative services at NBC’s Chicago affiliate.

Connecting itself to NBC’s national “Today” morning show and the show’s outdoor activities at its Rockefeller Center studio had proven successful for the Chicago station. It had even begun similar broadcasts in the back of its facility, using a live feed.

An expensive venture already, building a studio was more of a challenge because of Chicago’s weather conditions, she noted.

When Schwartz found she’d be heading to San Diego, the idea resurfaced. This time, it was propelled by one of the station’s more immediate issues: an aging building.

Simply renovating the building and upgrading its technology and electric set-up would be expensive, she said. With her experience with Chicago’s outdoor feature work, Schwartz had also been considering setting up a small satellite studio Downtown.

When she brought up the idea at a manager’s meeting, Patty Morrison, the station’s financial director, mentioned the project had been considered and shelved several years ago. Morrison pulled out a file from that time.

Schwartz, Morrison and the station’s chief engineer went Downtown and visited the site. It was too large for a satellite studio, and it was then that Schwartz seriously considered moving the whole station Downtown.

Another option, which was briefly discussed, was keeping half of the station in a different location, but that was quickly dropped.

A plan was drafted and sent to network executives, who wanted to see that the station’s plans would work financially. They gave final approval early last fall.

Schwartz and others from the station visited the “Today” show and talked to the staff there about what to expect with a Downtown site.

The first year will be a learning experience in many ways, she said. For instance, with newscasts, the crew will have to slightly adjust for the sunlight that filters into the studio and will change each day of the year.

Learning Curve

Also, there’s programming issues, such as seeing the flow of visitors, spectators and Downtown events that will be a part of the outdoor shots the station plans to incorporate into its programming.

To make the most of the space, the studio sets will be flexible, said Penny Martin, the station’s vice president for creative services.

Although Kearny Mesa has been convenient as a cost-effective, central location close to several highways, Schwartz is looking forward to the changes the new site will bring. She mentions more immediate access to downtown’s events such as the weekly farmers market and the annual Street Scene festival.

“What we’re taking a look at gives us something extra that we can use as a backdrop and that we can plug into,” she said. “When people are sitting at home, they’re watching us and the news but there will be a sense that there’s a lot going on and that we’re involved in it and we’re portraying that to them.”


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