It was less than three years ago that Mesa’s The Gold Mine Radio station finally received its FCC license — following a 12-year effort.
But the local high school students and media professionals who operate the station from Mesa’s East Valley Institute of Technology won’t have to wait that long to work in new studios that will take them leaps beyond the equipment of their former digs.
Construction is nearly complete on three new studios, along with 10 assembly booths, more classrooms and computer labs for EVIT’s broadcast, audio and multimedia program. The radio station, broadcast Valley-wide on 90.7 FM (KVIT) and 92.7 FM will celebrate its second anniversary of being on the air Saturday alongside the EVIT Expo, a time for the public to see just what’s going on at the campus.
EVIT is a public school that offers career and technical training to students from 10 surrounding school districts.
The radio program has doubled in the last two years to 110 students, said Steve Grosz, the program’s broadcast instructor. He expects, with the new classroom space and up-graded radio technology — to have 200 students in the fall and up to 400 in the next few years.
“You walk in the door and you’re going to get a general introduction to all media,” he said. “We’re going to make you employable.”
The radio station airs commercial-free hit music, but is hardly the typical student radio station. Marketing students sell sponsorships to local companies to help operate it, and on-air talent production staff is a mix of current students learning the trade, former students back to kick-start their professional broadcasting careers, and longtime Valley pros.
The school is spending about $750,000 to remodel classrooms space and add the new technology.
Student Addison Burnside, 18, a senior at Mesa’s Red Mountain High School, helped design and install the new equipment for The Gold Mine. He hopes to study engineering in the fall at Purdue University in Indiana.
“The studio has an industry-standard board,” Burnside said this week, looking over his work. He traveled to Las Vegas to attend a national trade show and learn about available equipment that could meet the station’s needs. Then, he picked out the cords, electronics, furniture and more to go into the new space.
Everything before was analog-based, he said. Now, it’s computer based and follows Internet protocol.
How much has the radio station grown? Longtime Valley radio personality Bruce Kelly, who joined The Gold Mine in 2011 as operations manager — and also hosts the station’s weekday morning drive program, “Bruce Kelly & Co.” — said the group was recently offered $2 million for the radio station. And some industry experts value the station with the new upgrades at $6 million, he said.
“There is no high school facility on the planet like this,” Kelly said.
“There are several other high school radio stations,” Grosz added. “But they don’t have the access to the markets we do. College radio stations don’t have these facilities.”
There are more than 100,000 listeners in the East Valley, Grosz said.
Students in the program are exposed to everything from working on-air and producing commercials to audio recording and marketing to creating apps for smart phones.
“We are the only broadcast training program like this in the U.S.,” Grosz said.
When students leave the program, they can find a job, Grosz and Kelly reiterated.
In fact, Dylan Sistek, a graduate of Chandler’s Basha High School and the EVIT radio program, was recently hired to be the station’s on-air personality from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
And while it’s a fully operational radio station, sometimes the students get the biggest perk out of the fact that their parents can listen to them in their cars while driving to work, Grosz said.
“Parents will sit in their cars and listen,” he said. “They love to have their parents and other kids hear them.”
To learn more about the radio station, see goldmineradio.com or check out The Gold Mine’s Facebook page.
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