The Biography of Chicago’s Marina City

Station of Tomorrow
January 4, 1966

In October 1964, there were five UHF television channels assigned to Chicago and WFLD had one of them, channel 32. Field Communications, which owned WFLD, Chicago Sun-Times, and Chicago Daily News, announced plans to construct a one million watt TV station at Marina City. It was their second application – the first one, for channel 38, was withdrawn.

Statue of Irv Kupcinet on Wacker Drive near Marina City. Photo by Steven Dahlman (2011). WFLD went on the air at 7:00 p.m. on January 4, 1966. Hosting the opening ceremonies was Sun-Times columnist Irv Kupcinet (1912-2003), who would spend 27 years in television and earn 15 local Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award.

The station was still on the top floor of the Kemper Insurance Building at 20 North Wacker Drive (now Civic Opera Building) but WFLD would eventually move to Marina City in 1967. At the time it went on the air, there were television sets in 2.5 million homes in Chicago, but only 823,000 could receive UHF. Still, in a 1966 Sun-Times article, WFLD was called the “Station of Tomorrow.”

Today, WFLD is a five million watt station owned by Fox Broadcasting Company. Its transmitter is located on top of John Hancock Center.

(Left) Statue of Irv Kupcinet on Wacker Drive near Marina City.

Concrete floors had to be re-poured

It took several months after the announcement to build the studios at Marina City.

According to Dave Dillman, who worked for WFLD from late 1965 to 1971, the concrete floors of the television studios had to be re-poured to make them more level.

During this time, some shows were aired from the National Design Center, using a television truck parked on the marina level.

Studio 2, a smaller studio, was equipped first, followed by Studio 1, the larger studio.

“For awhile when we needed to do productions in Studio 1 we parked the small [black and white] remote truck on the freight elevator and directed from there,” recalled Dillman in 2014. “That was fine until I was directing a show one day and the pneumatic elevator burped and dropped the truck and all of us on board a few inches. Did the rest of the show standing up.”

For WFLD, Dillman was a producer/director, assistant director, stage manager, audio engineer, and creative assistant. He directed many programs, including Cartoontown and The BJ and Dirty Dragon Show.

Last updated 10-Nov-14

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