Valley Public Radio/FM 89 took another step toward reinforcing its presence in the Valley this month when it celebrated the placement of the last beam on its new broadcast center.
Though the building in the Research and Technology Business Park at Temperance and Highway 168 is still under construction, it was a long-awaited milestone: the project has been in the works for several years.
“This process has been one that establishes a home for the radio station for a very long future,” said general contractor Kurt Zumwalt, who said he began consulting with the station several years before a site was even selected.
Valley Public Radio staff and supporters, as well as members of its board of directors, donned hard hats Nov. 5 to sign the beam and watch as it was raised and set in place over the entrance of the new state-of-the-art facility, which is slated to open in the spring. The 10,500 square-foot building “allows the station to expand its ability to produce original programming,” said David Parker, chairperson of the board of VPR.
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He said the additional space will allow the station to expand its news and production staff, and expand its locally-produced programming, so the station can continue to produce stories that resonate not just in the Valley, but throughout the state and nation.
“The (Central) Valley ... is so sophisticated and such an important part of California. [This] expands the ability of this community to be known on a national level. The production that we have currently engaged in ... from our local studios ... has actually been picked up by National Public Radio; it [has] brought Central Valley light to issues generally discussed by regions and reporters who don’t understand what really happens here.”
In addition to providing a home for VPR and FM 89, the new building has space to train and mentor the next generation of reporters, said Parker.
“We have facilities for interns; the hope is that we will be able to develop the next generation of reporters ... for Valley Public Radio or hopefully the local press, whether that be radio or television, but also we hope to place more people on the national scene. The internships lend itself to that.”
Before the beam was raised and set into place by construction workers, director of content Joe Moore addressed the audience. He thanked Zumwalt Construction and Rob Tomasevich of RDT Architecture.
Once the beam was in place, Parker took the stage to thank supporters, who not only met the challenge of raising the funds necessary to bring the project to fruition, but stepped up when recent changes to state building codes resulted in an additional $1 million in construction costs. To date, he said, $660,000 has been raised to cover those costs.
Prior to inviting guests to tour the still-under-construction facility, he had one more annoucement regarding an integral part of the new building: the studio’s performance space, which will be used to host and record live musical perfomances for programs like “Young Artists Spotlight,” will be known as the Barman & Chaney Performance Studio.
The name honors capital campaign supporters Bee and Bernard Barman, and Lois Chaney, all longtime VPR supporters from Bakersfield. Bernard Barman serves on the capital campaign committee; Bee Barman has been especially influential in helping to produce “Young Artists Spotlight,” a program that features performances by young musicians from all over the Valley.
As FM 89 on-air program host David Aus played a selection of tunes on the keyboard — the first performance in the new studio — Bee said she and her husband have been supporters from the time the station debuted in Bakersfield. For them, their support of VPR came about naturally:
“When we travel we listen to public radio and [other] stations don’t have near the quality,” Bee said. “We want to keep this Valley treasure going in the Central Valley.”