WRFL expands radio reach, celebrates 22 years



By Emily-Kate Cardwell

After 22 years, UK’s student-run radio station is revving up its power dial and reaching out to a wider audience.

Next week, while students enjoy rest and relaxation on Spring Break, WRFL’s current 250-watt tower, which rests atop the Patterson Office Tower, will be replaced with a 7,900-watt tower.

WRFL — or Radio Free Lexington — was created in 1988 by a handful of UK students and administrators. Since its beginning, only listeners in Lexington have been able to tune in, but the new tower has a four bay antenna that will enable the station to reach a larger area of Central Kentucky, including Frankfort, Shelbyville and Lawrenceburg. This power tower did not come without hard work, though.

Interior design senior Ainsley Wagoner is the station’s general manager. Wagoner said Radio Free Lexington has been raising funds for the new tower ever since it got the permit to upgrade three years ago.

“In 2008, we planned FreeKY Fest,” Wagoner said. “Which was a one-day music festival. Admission was free, and in exchange, we encouraged people to donate as much as possible.”

In just three years, WRFL has raised the estimated $150,000 cost for the tower and structural engineering.

To celebrate its 22nd anniversary, WRFL is throwing a free concert downtown called “Baby Let Me Upgrade Ya: A Celebration of WRFL’s 7,900 watts.”

“I want it to be a celebration for everyone who is involved with WRFL and Lexington,” Wagoner said. “The band No Age will be headlining and I’m working with Kakie Urch to set up a media project for people to record their memories, thoughts and feelings about WRFL over the years.”

Urch is an assistant professor of new media at UK. Urch co-founded WRFL when she was a UK undergraduate. She wrote a Kernel column in 1985 that led to the founding of Radio Free Lexington, a grassroots non-profit group and student organization that built and operates WRFL-FM still today.

Urch said when the station initially obtained a license for the 250-watt tower, Radio Free Lexington always hoped to increase that power, but it took many years for that to become possible.

WRFL broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and the DJ staff is comprised of volunteers.

“Imagine organizing volunteers to dance for 24 hours,” Urch said, “And then doing that all day, every day for 22 years. It’s the love and support of the community and of volunteers that has kept the station running for all these years.”

Urch currently hosts a show on WRFL every other Friday from 6 to 8 p.m.

Wagoner said WRFL aims to continue in the same direction it has been going.

“With increased signal strength, we do have the opportunity to do even bigger things in Central Kentucky,” Wagoner said.