World's tallest self supporting FM/TV steel tower proposed for Illinois college campus
February 10, 2009 - School districts and colleges are progressively more apt to become enticed by offers to supplement their shrinking budgets by approving a cell tower site on their property.
Based upon the location and number of tenants co-locating upon the structure, over a five year period lease revenues can easily be in excess of $200,000.
On February 18, McHenry County College's Board of Trustees will review a proposal by Oklahoma-based BMB Communication Management LLC that might have the potential to add $6 million to its coffers if it agrees to allow a broadcast tower to be erected on its Crystal Lake, Illinois campus.
In addition to the amount being the largest cooperative payment known to be offered for a tower site in a suburban area, the tower will be the largest self supporting steel lattice tower in the world.
Less than four acres required
BMB President John Maguire said that he is offering to purchase 3.6 acres of land owned by the college at fair market value to build his self supporting tower and equipment building.
Maguire could not provide an amount that would be offered to the college for the property until negotiations have been completed, but it would appear that it would be somewhere north of $275,000 since last year McHenry County College bought a 57-acre tract northeast of the current Crystal Lake campus for $67,000 an acre.
"The college would also share in the fees that we get for each station that goes on the tower," Maguire said, stating that the amount would be in excess of $5 million.
Maguire said that the project would not move forward until an agreement is made with the college and at least four FM broadcasters commit to using the self supporting structure that will also be designed to accommodate a TV station.
However, Maguire has been working on this project for almost two years and believes that four FM broadcasters are serious about their intentions to relocate to the tower once the college is on board and it is approved by the FAA, FCC, Crystal Lake and other regulatory agencies. "But to say that we've pre-sold the tower is going too far," he said.
The Oklahoma City developer has built a number of broadcast towers over the years and said that his company had originally looked at acreage next to the campus where there is currently a 498-foot FM tower owned by Next Media and a three-tower AM array owned by Chicago News Web Corp., but was unable to negotiate an agreement.
Tower base span 136 feet
The 3.6 acres is what Maguire believes will be necessary for the tower's and compound's footprint. Preliminary design identifies the leg to leg distance to be 136 feet.
It is expected, Maguire said, that the structure will require between six to eight million pounds of steel. "At $1.25 a pound the steel alone is going to cost $10 million," Maguire said.
The tower will be designed to handle up to 14 FM broadcasters using master antennas as well as a TV station. The total cost for the structure is being estimated at $18 million.
The total cost for the project is estimated by Maguire to be $24 million. It is expected that the tower and broadcast building will be financed with cash flow and connection fees.
The structure's utilitarian design will not have public observation areas.
Ukraine TV tower is currently the tallest
The tallest self supporting lattice steel tower in the world is the 1,263-foot Kiev TV tower in the Ukraine. The highest self supporting lattice structure in the U.S. is WITI's tower at 1,078 feet in Shorewood, WI - which barely beats out WHDH-TV's 1,063-foot broadcast tower in Newton, MA, and KCTV's 1,041-foot tower in Kansas City, MO.
If additional property is available from the college, a guyed tower would be more economical, said Don Doty, CEO of Stainless LLC, a Pennsylvania tower design and manufacturing firm that has been in business since 1947.
Although guyed towers are optimally designed with their anchor radius at 70% of the height of the structure - 1,050 feet for a 1,500-foot tower - Doty says that a 30% guy radius or better could provide an economical alternative.
Short guying the tower, however, would increase the land required to almost 13 acres.
The land BMB proposes to purchase from the college - approximately 400'x400' - is located at the southeast corner of the college's property adjoining to the Commonwealth Edison right of way.
"This particular piece of property is unique in that it will allow a number of area radio and television stations the potential to upgrade their signal and reach a significant number of new listeners," stated Maguire.
New York City considered 2,000-foot self supporter
Following the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, the Metropolitan Television Alliance, a coalition of New York City area broadcast TV stations, contracted with Stainless to provide a design for a 2,000-foot self supporting tower for their feasibility study for a new primary site for a TV tower within 3.2 miles of the World Trade Center to avoid interfering with signals from other cities.
According to Doty, the structure had a base footprint of 250 feet from leg to leg. A central shaft housed transmission lines and an elevator.
The MTVA decided it would be more economical to place its antenna on the Freedom Tower. A contract with the broadcasters is anticipated to net the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey about $10 million a year in annual rent. The 408-foot antenna to be erected upon the top of 1,776-foot building is expected to cost more than $20 million.
Jobs and educational opportunities cited
"The new tower will help the community in many different ways, such as creating new jobs during construction and increasing broadcast coverage for radio and television stations.
"The $6 million generated by McHenry County College from the sale of the property will go a long way to supporting educational opportunities in the community," Maguire said
Prior to making a final decision about entering into a contract with BMB, the McHenry County College Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting on February 18 at 7:00 P.M.
Maguire said that his design engineer will be attending the presentation to field questions about the structure.
Although general soil conditions on campus grounds are known from previous construction projects, soil borings have not been taken by BMB to be able to assess the size of the foundations that would be required after base reactions are provided following the tower's final design.
Crystal Lake, with 27 communications towers within the community, is located in southeastern McHenry County. Named after Crystal Lake, a 230 acre lake 1.6 miles from downtown, the community of approximately 41,000 residents is also known for its recently revitalized historic downtown district.
If BMB's plans are approved, it may also be recognized as the home of the world's tallest self supporting steel tower.
Maguire said that following all approvals, the fabrication and erection of the tower and construction of the broadcast equipment building would take approximately nine months to one year.