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Back to the Future for KLMR FM/AM Radio Stations in Lamar

By Betsy Barnett

January 4, 2023

A press release on the last day of 2022 contained a most welcoming message of hope and renewal as a newly formed company in Lamar called Riverside Communications, LLC signed an agreement to purchase KLMR (AM) and KLMR-FM Radio stations.

Is it now time to go back to the future for radio broadcasting in southeastern Colorado. Riverside Communications, LLC believes the time is now to take a heritage radio station, that had been beloved by all for its localized and ag-based programming and combine it with the radio broadcasting industry technology of today developing a new product with a modern, bright future.

KLMR radio located in Lamar, Colorado had been the iconic symbol of everything good about the past and what life had been like for us out here in southeastern Colorado. In those golden years of radio KLMR was the Giant of the High Plains and for 74 years, since December of 1948, the call letters KLMR had been a staple, a fixture, a friend, a guide for not only the people of Lamar but also for hundreds of people across southeastern Colorado, southwestern Kansas and into areas of Oklahoma and Texas.

In the September 28, 2022 edition of the Kiowa County Independent we reported that “The Giant of the High Plains Has Fallen” when the then owner of the heritage radio station, Beacon Broadcasting and 25-7, Inc., owned in the majority by Bob DeLancey, who now owns and operates KVAY Radio located in Lamar, announced that they had surrendered the FCC licenses for both KLMR 920 AM and 93.5 FM.

The licenses had been reportedly surrendered due to the uncontrollable situation caused by a July 2022 microburst that had destroyed the station’s equipment and flooded the iconic KLMR building located on the curve of Highway 50 north of Lamar. Delancey’s statement to the FCC at that time read, “Studios are a complete loss. Unable to restore service for both KLMR-AM (920) and KLMR-FM (93.5). 25-7 Media requesting to cancel both licenses, return spectrum, and release call letters.”

The response across the area to this awful news was impactful and hundreds of people commented on the situation, particularly focusing on what the iconic radio station had meant to them living in southeastern Colorado. The listeners were devastated and still lament the void created at the loss of this heritage radio station.

But perhaps 2023 will be the year that some of the devasting news we continue to be bombarded with will come to a satisfactory conclusion. So, it seems, with the KLMR radio station as an unexpected turn of events transpired when a press release harkened the good news, “Riverside Communications, LLC has officially signed an agreement to purchase KLMR (AM) and KLMR-FM from 25-7 Media, Inc. With the signing of the purchase agreement, Riverside Communications and 25-7 Media, Inc. are announcing their plans to formally file with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to transfer ownership of 920 KLMR-AM and 93.5 KLMR-FM from 25-7 Media, Inc. to Riverside Communications, LLC.

DeLancey added in a statement about the transfer of ownership, “When 25-7 Media was formed to acquire KLMR-AM and FM as well as KBLJ and KTHN in La Junta, we knew our work was cut out for us. It included a substantial investment in all 4 stations with new equipment and studios as well as staff. We welcomed the challenge and took it on head-first. After 4 years of hard work, we were finally seeing some return on our original investment. Then the microburst happened. It was a gut punch. After researching the additional investments and cost to bring both KLMR signals back on the air, we simply couldn’t justify the expense. I honestly didn’t have the energy to start over and do it all again. I’m thankful that Riverside Communications came along with younger, more energetic and experienced individuals like Dan and Kirk to get these legendary stations back on the air. I wish them the best of luck!”

According to the press release from December 31, 2022, “The newly formed Riverside Communications, LLC was created by Dan & Kathy Cochell and Kirk & Andrea Crespin in November of 2022, with the intention of bringing KLMR radio back to Southeastern Colorado. With the signing of the purchase agreement, they have taken a major step in recovering the KLMR-FM and KLMR(AM) licenses as they work towards bringing both stations back on the air.”

In and interview with Dan Cochell on Monday, the Independent was intrigued to hear that in reality he and Crespin had been already taking proactive steps when we revealed that the license had been forfeited in September 2022. Cochell told the Independent, “We had actually started the process to acquire KLMR a little bit before the article came out. We were in the process of hiring an FCC lawyer at the time so we couldn’t really make any statements until agreements were finalized.”

One of those agreements that Riverside Communications asked of the FCC was to reverse the forfeiture of the KLMR license. The listing was reversed in early October, according to Cochell, and now Riverside Communications must wait for their license filing to come through from the FCC. “We think it shouldn’t be any longer than 60-90 days.”

Cochell revealed that once the licensing is completed and Riverside Communications has everything lined up and ready to go, he will serve as the General Manager and Programming Director for the new KLMR AM & FM stations.

“Kirk has a strong background in business and will take on the business side of Riverside Communications while my strength is in my experience in radio, studio and technology set ups, programming, and finding the right talent for KLMR.” Cochell will be one of the talents once the stations go on air but says others will be hired as programming is solidified.

Cochell is definitely no stranger to radio in the Lamar market. He said he first became aware of Lamar in 1988 when his future wife Kathy called into Y108 radio in Denver where he was working in order to request a song. “I flirted with her on that phone call, and soon found myself in Lamar, Colorado. I asked Kathy if Lamar had a radio station—they did – it was KNIC and I was hired as the Program Director right away. Soon, Larry and Chris Bauer hired me at KVAY when it replaced KNIC.”

Cochell stayed at KVAY for many years until he moved the family to the Colorado Springs radio market in 2002. From 2002-2004 Cochell traveled the country and the world as the play-by-play talent on the Tennis Channel covering major tennis tournaments on national TV.

However, Radio is Dan’s love and by 2005 he was on the morning show at PEAK-FM and then soon after was hired at KRDO-News Radio. For nearly 10 years he was the News Editor at KKTV and in 2012 was named Best Radio Personality by the Colorado Springs Gazette.

The next few years saw the Cochell family busily traveling back and forth between the Colorado Springs market and the Lamar area where Dan did a year of teaching in McClave, did the Broncos halftime update during games on 850 KOA radio, and then landed a teaching gig at Falcon Middle School teaching Broadcasting.

While at Falcon, KRDO News Radio needed a full-time news anchor so Cochell told them if they would set up a broadcasting studio in his classroom, then he was their guy. They did and he now teaches some very lucky students how to do broadcast in a fully outfitted studio. Cochell says, “I start the school day at 6:00 am with my morning YouTube intros and school’s out by 3:00 pm. Then I write in my studio in order to present the news from 4:00 to 7:00 pm. It’s all digital and it’s the way radio has advanced in recent years.”

Cochell hinted that these types of advances will allow Riverside Communications to bring some unique and new radio broadcasting to southeastern Colorado through KLMR. “I can do the broadcast for KLMR in a studio, in downtown Lamar, or even my classroom in Colorado Springs.”

Cochell would not reveal all the plans he and Crespin have for the programming at KLMR but gave us a tease saying, “We are going to make KLMR more impressive than it has ever been before.”

The actual historic building is not usable, according to Cochell, as there is mold and asbestos in the building and the towers are a total loss. Riverside Communications, LLC will be building another site in Lamar, but Cochell was not able to give any details just yet about the new radio station’s location except that it will be built soon.

KLMR AM 920 will be The Country Music Giant and KLMR 93.5 FM will be KOOL 93.5. Cochell indicated they will be going back to their ag roots and at the same time advancing to the future and their many creative concepts.

KLMR should be ready to go online in late March or early April according to Cochell. “One way listeners will know when we are getting really close to coming on air is that we will begin looping the 1985 movie Back to the Future 24 hours a day on both stations.”

The Independent and fans across the region will be listening with bated breath to hear Doc Brown say, “Marty, we’re going back—back to the future!” on KLMR radio real soon.

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