CEI Builds World Class Broadcast System for Media Giant WAMU 88.5

Washington, DC’s leading public radio station, WAMU 88.5, more than doubled its size recently by outfitting a 48,000 square foot facility with world class broadcast technology. The American University-licensed media giant commissioned Communications Engineering, Inc. (CEI) to engineer the design and build state-of-the-art technical systems while providing advanced technical training.

The new seven story 96,102 sq. ft. building on Connecticut Avenue, now houses the five floor, 48,000 sq. ft. Media Center with 18 studios, 8 currently equipped.  Spaces are dedicated for a team of award winning local reporters and acclaimed talk radio hosts, news and digital journalists, music performances and volunteers. WAMU 88.5 offers comprehensive coverage of local, national and international events and a variety of news, entertainment and traditional American music to a substantial on-air and online audience. WAMU 88.5 has grown from a 4,000-watt station into a public media organization creating and distributing content via four FM frequencies, three HD channels, four internet streams and eight websites.

“Fully equipped, the Media Center will provide WAMU 88.5 with the ability to grow, creating and curating new content for our listeners,”  said Carey Needham, acting general manager WAMU 88.5. “It is a robust space integrating computer and broadcast technology with talented reporters and hosts.”  CEI recognized a strong focus on leveraging current audio over IP technology and engineered the new WAMU technical core as a unified IT network backbone. These key enabling technologies allow WAMU to develop a strong and flexible technology foundation on which an extremely capable digital audio infrastructure efficient and file based media workflow can be deployed, maintained, expanded and upgraded well into the future.
“CEI’s Engineering and Integration teams worked extensively with WAMU’s staff, Architect and General Contractor to complete the project on-time and on budget,” said Dave Giblin, CEI Vice President and General Manager. “The project included an aggressive design and construction schedule, significant operations training and workflow orientation plus the challenge of maintaining the integrity, preserving all network and on-air streams during the facilities move.”

For 15 months CEI Communications Engineering, Inc. has worked closely with WAMU 88.5 and American University technical staff to design 21 broadcast and production studios and control rooms, an extensive technical core, and all IT infrastructures, electrical, mechanical, and acoustical specifications.  CEI integrated AV systems for 12 conference and large community areas, an in-house IPTV system, Cable TV distribution, a fully networked/zoned music/intercom system, and several video walls throughout the facility at 4401 Connecticut Ave.

One studio CEI designed is now known as the “favorite” room of the award winning local reporters and acclaimed talk radio hosts. The favored studio has a large street level window which provides opportunities for the public to sneak a peek and see radio personalities and reporters at work, experiencing the radio operations close up.

The 90 seat “Black Box Theater” multipurpose room includes a large green screen equipped for a variety of community events ranging  from live shows held in front of an audience to a recording studio, video production and even as a rehearsal room for a live rock and roll band.  The vision for the Media Center includes space designed for engaging members of the broader community.  The large community meeting/multimedia room called “The Commons” is an open space for staging membership campaigns and informal dialogues. It provides entry points for listeners and neighbors to further connect with WAMU 88.5 as well as one another.