Neighbors

Signs of the Past

Broadcasting live from Sun City

Posted 2/26/21

One Sun City landmark that can be seen for miles is the red and white tower on Oakmont Drive behind the Grand Shopping Center.

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Neighbors

Signs of the Past

Broadcasting live from Sun City

Posted

One Sun City landmark that can be seen for miles is the red and white tower on Oakmont Drive behind the Grand Shopping Center. 

In case the questions is ever asked, it is 380 feet high — one of the tallest, free-standing towers in the state — and, actually, the second tower built at that location. 

Here’s the story.

A 150-foot tower rose over the Grand Avenue Shopping Center in 1962, giving Sun City its own radio station, KTPM-FM.  Its studio was in the shopping center and the 1,000-watt station first went on the air in June 1962, broadcasting from 6 a.m. to midnight. 

The studio was equipped with state-of-the-art equipment that was claimed to be the first stereo console in the nation. A large window allowed passersby to look in and watch the announcers. One was Otto Highfield, formerly with NBC and now a Sun City resident. Old standards and classics were popular. 

Unfortunately, the station only lasted six months, and it would be 13 years before Sun City had another station, KWAO-FM. Power was increased to 3,000 watts and the station could be heard as far away as 10 miles. Occasionally, programs would be heard as far away as Scottsdale.

KWAO-FM was very community-oriented, offering music plus hourly news reports, the community calendar, interviews and guest speakers, along with subjects of importance to the entire community, such as sewer and water rate hearings, which were broadcast live.

In May 1983, the station was purchased by Canyon Communications, which took over the frequency as KMZK, and became a light-rock music station. The local studio was abandoned and broadcasts were made from studios located outside Sun City.

To increase reach, a new, 380-foot tower was erected and the old one was taken down. 

The station lasted into the 1990s, and the tower then stood unused until purchased by Phoenix Internet in 2016. Its height meant the site could be used to transmit and receive microwave communications that deliver high-speed Internet. The tower is also used to relay service to other tower locations that Phoenix Internet operates in the Valley.

Verizon also leases space on the tower for cell phone service. 

But it’s no longer a source for golden oldies, light rock music programs or the latest sewer and water news.

Editor’s Note: Local historian Ed Allen is a former president of the Del Webb Sun Cities Museum Board of Trustees. The museum is located at 10801 W. Oakmont Drive and reservations are required to visit the museum. To arrange a tour of the museum, visit delwebbsuncitiesmuseum.org.

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