|City of license||Charlotte, North Carolina|
|Branding||610 The Fan|
|Frequency||610 kHz(also on HD Radio)|
|First air date||1941 (as WAYS)|
|Power||5,000 watts day
1,000 watts night
|Callsign meaning||W FaNZ(S)|
|Former callsigns||WAYS (1941-1984)
|Owner||Beasley Broadcast Group
(WXTU License Limited Partnership)
|Sister stations||WBAV-FM, WBCN, WKQC, WNKS, WPEG, WSOC-FM|
WFNZ (610 AM), also known as "610 AM The Fan", is a Sports Talk format radio station in Charlotte, North Carolina. Owned by Beasley Broadcast Group, the studios are located on South Boulevard in Charlotte's South End, while its transmitter is located at the site of its former studios on Radio Road in the Oakdale neighborhood of northwest Charlotte.
WFNZ signed on in 1941 as WAYS (AM), airing a full-service format. By the 1960s WAYS was Charlotte's lowest-rated station and the studios were in such bad shape cats were needed to control the rodents. Stan and Sis Kaplan of Boston bought WAYS in 1965 for $550,000. Beginning in June of that year, "Big WAYS" aired an energetic Top 40 format which was considered "an alien sound in the Carolinas", knocking conservative WBT out of first place and eventually becoming the highest-rated Top 40 station in the country and the 15th most popular station overall. One reason was the Treasure Hunt, where people had to listen to clues from "Mr. Treasure" (Jack Gale) telling them how to find a $1,000 coupon. News director C. Michael Blackwell would interview winners. Personalities included John Kilgo, Jack Pride, Tom Kinard, Jack Armstrong, Pete Ray of "The Pete Ray-D-O Show", Dick Blanchard, and Long John Silver. WAYS jocks who went on to greater fame included Morton Downey Jr., actor Jay Thomas, and Robert Murphy (who had success in Chicago). Eventually, the morning show was simulcast on both WAYS and sister FM WROQ. Larry Sprinkle, now a WCNC-TV morning weather personality, also worked at the stations. They were known for lampooning The PTL Club with Bill Taker of the Pass the Loot Club.
However, due to rising popularity of music on FM radio, ratings for the station dropped, and in September 1982, WAYS changed formats to a hybrid news talk/adult contemporary format. The ratings continued to slide, and in September 1984, it became WROQ (AM) and began simulcasting its then-FM sister station (now WNKS). In 1986, it changed its calls to WAES (a phonetic version of the old calls) with an oldies format, briefly bringing back its old "61 Big WAYS" moniker. Also that year, the Kaplans sold the stations for $15 million.
However, WAES failed to make much headway in the ratings. After 18 months of the Oldies Channel satellite format, WAES began airing the "AM Only" adult standards satellite format during the day, and talk show hosts Bruce Williams, Neil Myers and Larry King at night. It brought back the WROQ calls in 1990, playing an album rock format similar to the one its FM sister used in its glory days in the early 1980s. On January 15, 1991, it became WGKL, simulcasting its FM sister's oldies format. Later in 1991, it became WAQS (another phonetic play on its old calls) while keeping the oldies format.
Finally, in September 1992, it became Charlotte's first ever all-sports station as "Sports 610 AM WAQS." Gerry Vaillancourt, formerly of WCNT, debuted the station's first local sports talk program on September 14. Another local host was Michele Tafoya, who was then known on-air as Mickey Conley. The format took a while to take hold, but it got an assist when it was sold to the owners of popular rock station WRFX and became known as WRFX-AM, with the moniker "Fox 610 Sports". When WRFX was bought by Clear Channel, AM 610 was sold to American Radio Systems and took its current calls, WFNZ. The ARS deal reunited it with its former longtime FM sister. (ARS would be acquired by Infinity Broadcasting in 1997, which was renamed to CBS Radio in December 2005.)
In 2003, WFNZ added a semi-satellite, WFNA, on 1660 AM after the FCC expanded the AM radio band. It replaced Infinity-owned gospel station WGIV (1600 AM), which left the air. (The WGIV call letters are now on a different station in the Charlotte area, under different ownership.) The two stations, known as "The Franchise," simulcast on weekdays and had separate schedules during nights and weekends. Now known as WBCN, the station began airing a talk radio format on September 14, 2009, before returning to sports as a full-time affiliate of CBS Sports Radio on January 3, 2013.
From 2006 to 2012, WFNZ has been the Charlotte-area home of North Carolina Tar Heels football and basketball. WBT sales director Steve Sklenar said the games pre-empted John Hancock's show and, during the ACC Tournament, Rush Limbaugh. WBT wanted the games, Sklenar said, because its powerful 50,000-watt signal brought the Tar Heels to most of the East Coast at night. However, the pre-emptions cost the station a lot of money. In contrast, WFNZ could use WFNA to air Charlotte 49ers basketball even when there was a conflict.
For many years, WFNZ boasted the second-strongest signal in the Charlotte area, at 5,000 watts (which is stronger at 610 AM than it would be farther to the right on the AM dial). However, WCRU and former sister WBCN operate at 10,000 watts. During the day, it provides at least grade B coverage to 35 counties in North and South Carolina. However, it must power down to 1,000 watts at night due to a large glut of clear-channel stations on nearby channels. This makes WFNZ hard to hear even in some parts of Mecklenburg County and all but unlistenable in much of the South Carolina portion of the market. Due to its nighttime signal limitations, UNC signed up WFNZ's former FM sister WRFX to simulcast Tar Heel basketball games from 2008 to 2011, as well as any football games kicking off after 5 PM. WNOW-FM took over this duty for the 2011-12 season, after which the Tar Heels moved back to WBT full-time.
In November 2007, the station went through a scheduling change when the station lost its syndication of "The Bill Rosinski Show" after the Charis Radio Network cancelled the show. Instead of picking up syndication from Sporting News Radio or ESPN Radio, the station added a one hour show featuring Chuck Howard and added an hour to the "Mac Attack" show. On October 1, 2008, Howard announced that he was leaving the station to become the producer for NASCAR Media Group. A new show featuring former Carolina Panthers players Frank Garcia and Brentson Buckner began airing on October 6, 2008.
On September 14, 2009, WFNZ changed its branding from "The Franchise" to "The Fan", moving in some ESPN Radio programming from 1660 AM and dropping Sporting News Radio programming. WBCN, formerly WFNA, broke from the simulcast and flipped to a news talk format as "America's Talk 1660."
November 24, 2010 was the last day for Mark Packer, host of the station's most popular show "Primetime with the Packman", and a WFNZ host for 13 years. His show is still syndicated to 14 stations in markets that include Raleigh, Greensboro and Charleston. Though Packer, son of Billy Packer, will continue his "Southern Fried Football" and "Packman on Sports" on the WJZY 10:00 newscast, he will be off Charlotte radio due to a non-compete clause until July 2011.
May 14, 2014 was the last day for Marc James, host of "The Drive with Marc James." He announced it on the air and on Twitter.
On October 2, 2014, CBS Radio announced that it would trade its entire Tampa and Charlotte clusters (including WFNZ), as well as WIP (AM) in Philadelphia to the Beasley Broadcast Group in exchange for 5 stations located in Miami and Philadelphia. The swap was completed on December 1, 2014.
Current hosts and producers
- Chris McClain: Host of "The Mac Attack"
- Jim Celania: Co-host of "The Mac Attack"
- Frank Garcia: Co-host of "Bustin' Loose With Frank Garcia
- Travis Hancock: Producer of "The Mac Attack"
- Colin Hoggard: Host of "The Call Up"
- Nate Conley: Co-Host of "The Call Up"
- Chris Kroeger : Host of "Prime Time"
- Gary Williams
- Chuck Howard
- Ethan Horton
- Bill Rosinski
- Brian "Hayseed" Stroupe
- Sandy Penner
- The B.O.C. with Shawn and Tony
- Tom Carey
- Jim Noble
- Steve Czaban
- Mark Packer
- Brentson Buckner
- Muhsin Muhammad
- Marc James
- Taylor Zarzour
- Pighead Wilson
- Washburn, Mark (June 10, 2015). "50 years ago: When 'Big WAYS' radio splashed into town". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved June 16, 2015.
- Jeff Borden, "Disc Jockeys to Reunite Here," The Charlotte Observer, October 7, 1988.
- http://thatwasradio.com/ways.html, Retrieved on 2008/05/07.
- WROQ Changes WAYS - It's WAES Now," The Charlotte Observer, June 27, 1986.
- Jeff Borden, "Station Turns to Larry King, Oldies," The Charlotte Observer, June 18, 1988.
- Tim Funk, "WROQ Monkeys with Its Format," The Charlotte Observer, January 20, 1990.
- Tim Funk, "WPEG Pumps Up Its Power, The Charlotte Observer, February 15, 1991.
- David Poole, "AM Station to Go All-Sports," The Charlotte Observer, August 26, 1992.
- David Poole, "Charlotte Was Launching Pad for 2 Rising Stars," The Charlotte Observer June 7, 1995.
- Stark, Phyllis (June 4, 1994). "Vox Jox". Billboard 106 (23): 129.
- David Poole, "Gerry Vaillancourt," The Charlotte Observer, March 8, 1996.
- Washburn, Mark (2009-09-03). "Talking back: CBS to take on WBT". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2009-09-05.[dead link]
- Washburn, Mark (2006-06-21). "Tar Heels could air on WFNZ". The Charlotte Observer.
- Washburn, Mark (2010-11-29). "Mark Packer is leaving WFNZ radio". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2010-12-14.
- Washburn, Mark (2011-08-01). "Sports radio stations flip networks". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2011-08-09.
- "James Announced He's Leaving WFNZ".
- CBS And Beasley Swap Philadelphia/Miami For Charlotte/Tampa from Radio Insight (October 2, 2014)
- Venta, Lance (December 1, 2014). "CBS Beasley Deal Closes". RadioInsight. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
- WFNZ official website
- QCB's official page on WFNZ's website
- The Mac Attack visits WCCB
- History of the station
- Query the FCC's AM station database for WFNZ
- Radio-Locator Information on WFNZ
- Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for WFNZ