KSMQ seeking state funds for new studio in downtown; Project, that is ‘… built for TV,’ could be realized by 2020

Published 7:58 am Friday, March 2, 2018

Officials at KSMQ Television in Austin are seeking $2.8 million in state funding to build a new studio in downtown Austin.

If successful, said president and CEO Eric Olson, a $5.6 million project would, if all goes well, be realized by 2020.

KSMQ Television president and CEO Eric Olson

The project would allow the public television station to have a studio “that has been built for TV,” he said.

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Its quarters have, since its inception in 1972, been located at Riverland Community College, in the former electronics department.

“Riverland has been a wonderful partner” to KSMQ, said Olson. “But this is about visibility and efficiency … and the timing is right.”

A more centralized location would give the studio a higher profile in the community, he said, a built-for-television station would broaden its appeal and ability to offer needed programming.

There are several hills to climb, however – not the least of which is inclusion in the session’s bonding bill, which legislators have indicated already has many requests. Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin and Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin are sponsors for the bill.

“But we have broad support” from other legislators representing a wide swath of southeastern Minnesota, Olson said.

Financial support has been pledged as well, and the Hormel Foundation has voiced its support.

The project would allow for a new, 13,000-square foot building that would include space for two studios. Olson said while the square footage is not much larger than the current space, it will be space that is specifically designed —“in length, width and especially height, which right now limits us”— that will allow multiple sets.

The construction of a new studio would reflect a second phase of a strategic plan. The first phase — taking back master control capability that allows for more local potential as well as high definition on its primary channel — has been completed.

KSMQ’s Operations Manager Tim Gassmann, from left, and Chief Engineer Paul Fisher show Public Broadcasting Service CEO and President Paula Kerger the station’s new master control facility on the Riverland Community College campus. Herald file photo

“We control our destiny a little more now; we can offer programming that is needed,” Olson said. “We look forward to different types of programming on different platforms.”

The studio has always been in Austin, and will stay that way, he added. Its market stretches to Rochester and Winona, down toward Mason City, and upward to Owatonna and Mankato. It is noted for its live coverage of the Minnesota Legislature, and a variety of children’s shows and area-based programming, such as school events, and local culture, such as shows like “Off 90.”

In that market, he added, “support for KSMQ has been the most robust in Austin,” he said.

Olson and his staff of 14 remain hopeful that the state monies will be forthcoming. The KSMQ studio has never moved from its original location.