WKTV Facility Is Unique

April 1, 2005
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WYOMING — The offices at Wyoming's community television station, WKTV, are set up to look like a small town.

For example, the station's new editing bays are set up in a 600-square-foot space the staff calls the "Editor's Building," which has a façade that resembles the Ledyard Building in downtown Grand Rapids.

This is not your typical office space with glass windows and door and a long conference table down the middle.

Other work spaces within the 10,000-square-foot facility at 5261 Clyde Park Ave. are set up to look like a small farm and an old-style diner.

The Editor's Building, which is actually two stories tall, opened in January as part of the TV station's 30th anniversary celebration.

The growing replica "village" has drawn quite a bit of attention in Wyoming.

"We're community media. The idea was that when you enter the building, you enter a community," WKTV General Manager Tom Norton said. "And those community buildings are actually all functioning structures that contribute to the mission of the facility."

When WKTV moved into the Clyde Park building two years ago, Norton went to a design-builder with his ideas and plans.

"He gave us a quote and it was astronomical," Norton said. "There was no way we were ever going to raise that kind of money in Wyoming and Kentwood. We knew we had to cut the cost down somehow, and we found that a lot of people really wanted to see the facility succeed."

Norton and Martin Gedris of Martin Gedris Construction worked on the initial plans for the facility, and slowly the pieces fell into place. Contractors donated time and materials, suppliers offered wholesale discounts. The Electrical Workers Local 275 provided $13,000 worth of wiring for gas money and lunch.

Originally bid at $100,000, the Editor's Building's final cost came in at just over half of that. The Control Room Diner, as the quaint eatery is known, was bid at $60,000 and cost less than $40,000.

"Our unofficial motto is that we get by with a little help from our friends," Norton said.

The facility is also serving the Wyoming area by helping to fill a void for public venues.

"We don't really have much in the way of meeting or conference space in the Wyoming area," said John Crawford, president of the Wyoming-Kentwood Area Chamber of Commerce. "WKTV provides a really interesting space with what Tom's done. Reminds me of Gaslight Village (in the Van Andel Museum Center). They wanted to impress that you're walking into a community."

Crawford said the chamber often hosts events at Brann's Brass Button Catering Center on South Division, but that facility is meant for less than 200 people. Before the Editor's Building was completed, a Taste of the Chamber event was held there, ushering nearly 1,500 people through the facility over the course of a few hours.

Although the addition of the new structure complicates the hosting of extremely large events within the Clyde Park facility, a planned "drive-in theater" could make up for that loss of open space.

WKTV is modeling its newest use of work space after the Studio 28 Drive-In Theater, complete with big screen, concession stand, '57 Chevys and Volkswagen Beetles. With the "theater" space, high schools, media clubs and nonprofit organizations will have free access to the latest high-tech media the center has to offer.

The facility also will be available to rent for business meetings, just as the Control Room Diner is now.

"You can sit in the cars or up at the concession stand," Norton said of the theater space. "It's a very eclectic, fun place for companies and organizations to come and do their thing."

"It would be a great place for a workshop or seminar with all the audiovisual equipment they have there," Crawford added.

An ongoing capital campaign, Inside WKTV, offers bricks on the WKTV "Main Street" that separates the replica buildings for a $50 donation. Grants from the Steelcase Foundation and Wyoming Community Foundation also aided construction.  

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