WWAY begins broadcasting from new home in Leland

Scott Dean, Amanda Fitzpatrick, Randy Aldridge and Dustin Dorsey anchor the first newscast in WWAY's new studio in Leland on April 29, 2018. (Photo: WWAY)
Scott Dean, Amanda Fitzpatrick, Randy Aldridge and Dustin Dorsey anchor the first newscast in WWAY's new studio in Leland on April 29, 2018. (Photo: WWAY)

LELAND, NC (WWAY) – The future is finally here for WWAY.

More than a year after announcing station owner Morris Multimedia had purchased the former Thunder Alley building in Leland, southeastern North Carolina’s ABC, CBS and CW affiliate is now broadcasting from its new home.

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“Simply put, it means the ability to offer our viewers an even higher quality of news and programming,” WWAY General Manager Andy Combs said. “Our old studio on Front Street was built in the ’60s. The design of the station fit for that era, but things have changed significantly over the last several decades. Areas where you used to need a lot of room you no longer do, and areas that used to be small now need to be much larger. Our new facility is designed around making sure the space not only fits our needs today, but has the ability to fit what we might need to do in the future.”

Business and administrative staff moved into the Leland building earlier this month, but the on-air switch officially happened around midnight Saturday. WWAY’s first newscast from the state-of-the-art facility at the entrance to Magnolia Greens off US 17 aired Sunday at 6 p.m. on WWAY ABC and WWAY CBS.

The building includes a new news set. Gone is the virtual set with green chromakey screens WWAY has used for the past five years. In its place is a modern studio with multiple sets, including two video walls that will add flexibility to the set-up.

“It’s really nice to get back to doing television in the traditional way,” Operations Manager Kevin Helton said. “But at the same time we’ve upgraded our equipment significantly to keep us ahead of the curve when it comes to technological advancements in broadcasting.”

Helton, Chief Engineer Marty Doty and News Director Kevin Wuzzardo worked for months with designers and builders to get the set just right. Their design pays tribute to some very familiar features around the Cape Fear.

“The look of the main news set includes weathered brick and steel, which evokes the historic look of so many of our downtowns, like Wilmington, Whiteville, Southport, Burgaw and Elizabethtown,” Wuzzardo said. “Across the room is our interview set, which feels a lot like a beach house, including a nice view. But beach houses typically have one view. We can have as many as we want thanks to technology and creativity power the video wall.”

Of course the studio is not the only feature of WWAY’s new home. Months of work turned the old bowling alley into a modern workspace.

Doty, Helton and Assistant Chief Engineer Randy Gray, with help from engineers from WWAY’s sister stations, have spent months running miles of cables to feed the technology for the building’s business and broadcasting needs.

But that’s not all. The station also includes a conference and event space, including a commercial kitchen, that can be rented out by the public.

“We are very fortunate to have an owner in Charles H. Morris who believes in investing back into the businesses he owns,” Combs said. “He is always thinking about the future and believes that the station should be a big part of the community both on and off the air. His idea of incorporating a 3,000-square-foot event space for the general public as part of the design is a great example of that.”

Morris and other company leaders will be the first guests in the new space when they host a meeting with the top executives from Morris Multimedia’s six TV stations this week.

It caps an exciting month of transition and a new chapter in the history of WWAY and its employees.

“We have the greatest team of employees a station could have. Our staff truly takes a lot of pride in what they do,” Combs said. “To see the look in their eyes when they walk into the new 21,000-square-foot building the first time is priceless. It’s like being a child again on Christmas morning.”