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Case Study: Great Platte River Road Archway Monument

Autumn 2000
A New 'Somewhere' for Travelers − So Effective It Actually Had to Be Shut Off at First
Up and running a week and a half before the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument's grand opening, the new information radio station actually had to be turned off after its first day on the air, because it brought in too many visitors from the Interstate – before staff was ready to serve them. Even so, the Archway team is pleased to have this new station, which is proving to be a good draw for would-be passers-by on a fast track through Nebraska.
AM radio at Great Platte River Road Archway Monument
The Dream: A 'Before' Drawing
 
AM radio at Archway Monument in Nebraska
The Reality: An 'After' Photo





























Archway Monument AM radio installation
Antenna Installation
An Inconspicuous Addition to a Massive Structure
Vision and reality coalesced in Nebraska, creating a new 'somewhere' for travelers.

"We had seen radio stations at other top attractions and knew that an Information Station would be crucial for an enroute tourism spot such as the Archway," recounts Jeff Smith of the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument Project, when asked where the idea for the station originated. Now, with the Monument's new Information Station in place, instead of being a perplexing (albeit amazing) structure seemingly in the middle of "nowhere," via the radio, the Archway invitingly communicates personality and purpose to the more-than 12,000 Interstate-80 motorists who pass beneath the giant portal every day on their way westward. I-80 is the primary route linking the US' east and west coasts. That the Archway towers over this busy highway symbolically presents it to motorists as the Gateway to the West.  The Archway station's broadcast message invites and directs travelers to the Museum. Many will understand and remember the encounter in years to come; for the massive, 8-story-high structure houses innovative experiential exhibits that, through interactive audiovisuals, engages guests in the story of the Great Platte River Road "from the days of the Oregon Trail to the fiber-optic future of tomorrow" – and, in the process, subtly metamorphosing a previously supposed "nowhere" into "somewhere" for anyone interested.

Best-laid plans and coordination enabled success.

Even though establishing a Travelers Information Station (TIS) was thought by museum staff to be a good idea, how does one actually go about implementing a radio station, never having done it before? With a little help from friends and associates; that's how.  

"Funding was not really a problem," says Smith. "We built anticipated cost into our owner-furnished equipment budget, and when a foundation board member saw the cost, he decided it would be a fitting donation to make." This good fortune might seem lucky. But in actuality, it more likely resulted from project visionaries' having a well-defined and communicated plan AND a well-coordinated effort behind the scenes, pulling in the outside experts needed. This included local city administrators and remote technical consultants.

Relates Smith, "On the recommendation of the Nebraska Department of Roads, we contacted Information Station Specialists, who had provided stations to other Nebraska cities." Information Station Specialists president Bill Baker immediately responded with consulting assistance, equipment and integration services to bring the project to fruition and help change the museum's vision into reality. His assessment:  "It was a pleasure to work on a project with people who have such a clear idea of what they are communicating and who their audience is. The Archway developers have chosen the perfect medium – information radio – to attract and inform motorists at that exciting moment when they first see this awesome structure." 

Installation, testing, training and communicating further ensured success.

Tom Coviak, the supplier's field technician on site, instructed the installation team and museum staff how to set up and use the equipment, leaving documentation with team members for future reference. Coviak attributes "a remarkably easy installation" to cooperative efforts with Archway operations consultant Jerry Pospisil of JBP Consulting (Orlando) and onsite museum maintenance manager Ron Gregory. And behind the scenes, supplier project manager Steve Whitcomb helped select the best frequency for the new station, then obtained FCC licensing – no small matter. Precision resources (databases and maps) are required to locate open frequencies, which are compared and tested for quality, so the one ultimately chosen is not only legally open but does not suffer from or cause interference to other low-power or commercial broadcast stations.    
To prepare their new broadcast, Archway staff, in coordination with Kearney (a nearby city) administrators and the Department of Roads, drafted a preliminary message that Bill Baker edited and produced in an engaging multi-voice, talk-radio presentation style. See today's Professional Recording options.

Now, that the Archway is open and the system turned on for real, that recorded message (with alternative winter and summer segments) loops all day. It can be heard clearly a dozen miles around the Monument and, along with billboards and brochures, lets travelers know about the new "somewhere" in the Midwest, the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument.
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