Humble Beginnings: A Training Ground for Students
KLRC was announced in August 1983 as a 100 watt station serving only the John Brown University campus and the immediate community. Named for the Learning Resource Center building in which it was housed, the station began broadcasting at 90.3 FM on the dial on October 1st, 1983. Its primary purpose was serve as a training ground for JBU Broadcasting students. The station was created through the vision and hard work of former JBU Communications Professor and Chairperson, Mike Flynn.
The official ribbon cutting ceremony for KLRC was held during a homecoming weekend at the University. Present for the official Ribbon Cutting Ceremony were the managers of other JBU stations: Boyce Lancaster of KBBW, Waco, TX, Ed Mahoney of KGOL, Houston, TX, Jerry Patton of WJST and WJBU, Panama City, FL, and Carl McQuay of KUOA, Siloam Springs. Mrs. Stephanie Brown cut the ribbon as members of the Board of Trustees and alumni gathered outside of the Learning Resource Center at JBU.
A New Purpose: Opening up to the Community
The station continued to grow and train students, but Flynn saw the need to increase the power of the station in order to begin providing more of a service to the community. It was a five year effort, but in the fall of 1988, the FCC approved the long-awaited power increase to 3,000 watts. With the higher power, the FCC also changed the frequency of KLRC from 90.3 to 101.1 FM.
KLRC was privileged to have Paul and Lynne Harvey host the ribbon cutting ceremony to dedicate the new and improved station. Paul Harvey spoke on the importance of Christian young people going into the field of communication. Ten dedicated Christians in the right journalism positions could change the world, he observed.
In 1989, the station welcomed a new Program Director, Rick Sparks. Rick was instrumental in implementing many formatics that set KLRC apart from most college radio stations.
Late 1990 brought another improvement in the KLRC signal. A power increase from 3,000 watts to 6,000 watts doubled the effective power of the station, allowing full coverage of Northwest Arkansas. The estimated audience after the increase was 10,000 people.
1990 also served up another landmark for KLRC. It was the first year in the stations history that a sharathon was held to help fund the growing station. The three day event netted $10,500 in listener pledges, which was used to cover the cost of the power upgrade and pay for summer announcer salaries. The sharathon became an annual spring-time tradition at the station. The fundraising event was actually the result of overwhelming listener support of the station. In May, 1990, KLRC was down to its last $1,200 in operating funds. The station announced to its listeners that the management had decided to shut down the station for the summer in order to save on expenses. According to the June, 1990 edition of the John Brown University Bulletin, the station received over 100 telephone calls from listeners saying they wanted to help keep KLRC on the air. It was out of this response that the station decided to hold a three-day fundraiser called The Summer Drive.
Turning the Corner: Early Growth
KLRC continued to see steady growth through the early 1990s. The number of listeners increased, and the donations received at each annual sharathon increased as well.
1996 brought additional milestones for the station. In January, KLRC began broadcasting 24 hours a day. This was made possible through an affiliation with the Morningstar Radio Network, which broadcasted a similar mix of Contemporary Christian music. The network became the primary audio source for overnight and some weekend programming.
In addition to broadcasting 24 hours a day, KLRC also launched its website in January of 1996. KLRC.com was one of the first websites in the area, and holds the honor of being the first Christian radio web site in the state of Arkansas.
During May of 1996, KLRC hired its first full-time employee of the station, Sean Sawatzky. Sawatzky assumed the role of Program Director, while Rick Sparks moved to the role General Manager. Sawatzky was responsible for the transition to 24 hour per-day broadcasting, the new internet site, and many programming changes that resulted in increased ratings and donations.
Station growth continued in many ways. By 1997, the spring sharathon netted over $100,000 during three days of giving by the KLRC audience. The total number of listeners to the station passed the 20,000 mark. Ratings hit a new high, placing KLRC as the #21 Contemporary Christian station in the entire nation in 1997.
In 1999, KLRC moved to the Scott Studios automation system. The ability to pre-record announcer shifts and generate music from a computer hard drive allowed KLRC additional opportunities to provide locally generated content without a large staff.
The year 2000 brought a number of additional changes to KLRC, and turned out to be a record-setting year. The 60+ year old tower that KLRC had been broadcasting from was allowed to fall as the station began broadcasting from a new tower and transmitter. In May, further staff changes came as Sean Sawatzky was promoted to KLRC's first full time General Manager. Replacing Sawatzky in the programming role was Melody Miller, a May 2000 JBU Broadcasting graduate. In September of that year, KLRC debuted worldwide with its live internet stream.
By the turn of the millennium, KLRC had received its highest ratings ever with 35,000 people tuning in weekly. In that one year span, over 15,000 calls were received at KLRCs toll-free number, over 1,000 prizes were given away, and Sharathon 2000 raised over $180,000.
National Recognition: The Radio Station of the Year
2001 was yet another big year for KLRC. KLRC received the Gospel Music Associations small-market Station of the Year Award. This national award was the most prestigious honor in Christian radio, based on industry leadership, ratings, overall on-air sound, as well as community involvement. In 2002, the station repeated this accomplishment by winning the award in back-to-back years.
In September of 2002, KLRC moved out of the Learning Resource Center and into a building on the west end of the John Brown University campus, combining operations with another JBU station, KUOA. Around the same time, KLRC hired its third full-time employee. Josh Bentley had worked at the station as a student, and was hired as KLRCs Production Director upon graduation.
Another big step for the station was accomplished in November of 2003, as KLRC purchased its first station vehicle. This allowed for a larger visual presence at events around Northwest Arkansas.
2005 brought many changes to the station. Residents of Bentonville, Bella Vista, Rogers, and surrounding areas could hear KLRC better than ever before, thanks to a brand new translator that signed on in February, broadcasting at 99.1 FM. This was KLRCs first major signal expansion in over a decade.
KLRC continued to add more music to its schedule as well. In July of 2005, KLRC began broadcasting 23 hours of locally generated music programming each weekday. The station also added a new Family Hour each weeknight to continue to serve its audience with very popular family-oriented talk shows.
The growth continued. Between 2004 and 2005, the station added more than ten thousand listeners, meaning that over 46,300 individuals were tuning into KLRC each week. KLRC was now the most popular Christian station in the area, and one of the top stations overall in the market. Sharathon's growth continued as well. In 2005, the station raised an amazing $365,000 in sixteen hours, almost nine hours faster than was planned.
The New Guard: Staffing Increases
As a part of the growth, KLRC added yet another full-time staff member. Malachi Crane, a recent graduate of JBU, was hired in December of 2005 as KLRCs Underwriting Director.
All of the success carried over into 2006, when KLRC was yet again chosen as the Radio Station of the Year from a national pool of small-market Christian radio stations. The award was the station's third in five years, and KLRC continues to be the only student-staffed college station to ever win the award.
While the GMA award was the highlight, there were a lot of other things happening at KLRC in 2006. The station announced a redesign of its website, the first significant upgrade for the site in two years. The new website was not only a cosmetic upgrade, but also allowed KLRC staff to more easily update KLRC.com through the use of an online content management system.
2006 also marked the beginning of several staff changes at the station. After serving as KLRC's program director for almost six and a half years, Melody Miller resigned her position in October. Hired to replace her as the station's third program director was Mark Michaels, who had attended John Brown University and worked for KLRC as a student almost a decade before.
In 2007, Josh Bentley, the station's Production Director, also left the station. Replacing Bentley in that role was Jeremy Louis, who had previously worked with Mark Michaels at KBGI in Omaha, Nebraska.
The station's commitment to the community had never been higher, and as a result, KLRC's outreach promotions had reached a new level. In response to this expansion, KLRC added Jen Ryan to the full-time staff in July 2007 as the new Promotions Director. Jen had graduated from JBU's broadcasting program in 1994, when she worked at the station as a student morning announcer. Jen also teamed up with Mark Michaels to host a revamped morning show, Mark and Jen in the Morning.
More staff growth came with 2008 JBU graduate Ansen Bayer being added to the team in May of that year as the stations Director of New Media, handling the station's graphic design needs and managing KLRC's online and social media efforts. Ansen also signed-on to host the station's afternoon show, The Drive-Home.
Expanding the Vision: Major Additions and Upgrades
A long-dreamed vision for launching a music outreach for youth became a reality in September of 2008. KLRC launched a new sister-station, MyPositiveEdge.com. Run by KLRC staff and JBU students, MyPositiveEdge.com is an internet-only station broadcasting Christian alternative and rock music with a focus on teens and young adults. Jeremy Louis was named program director for the new station. MyPositiveEdge.com allowed KLRC to reiterate one of its original goals to provide a real-world training ground for JBU broadcasting students to hone their skills.
In 2009, KLRC also made additional progress on the long-term goal of improving signal strength by adding a new translator at 103.5 FM in Springdale, AR. This was the first signal enhancement since 2005, and helped KLRC to come in loud and clear for residents of Springdale, Fayetteville, and the surrounding areas.
Also in 2009, Jen Ryan left the station and was replaced by Keri Lynn as the new Morning Show Co-Host and Promotions Director. JBU graduate Kalynn Hansen was added to the team in the role of Public Service Director, and eventually joined Ansen as co-host of "The Drive-Home" in 2011 after two years of hosting evenings on KLRC.
By 2011, KLRC had occupied its current building for almost a decade. With the number of staff continuing to grow and the addition of a second station in MyPositiveEdge.com, space was at a premium. In May, the station announced that it had purchased a new facility in historic downtown Siloam Springs. The new building doubled the square footage of the previous one, allowing for larger studios for both stations, plus additional office and storage space. KLRC began operating out of the new facility in July of 2011, and also took the opportunity to upgrade much of the studio equipment that had been in service for many years.
But perhaps the biggest change for KLRC was still to come. After originally filing with the FCC for the only remaining non-commercial frequency in the area in 2007 and not being awarded the construction permit, KLRC finalized a deal to purchase the permit in 2011. Final FCC approval on the sale was granted in June of 2012, and KLRC officially announced the first major upgrade to the station's primary signal in over twenty years. The station would move from 101.1 FM to a new 100,000 watt signal at 90.9 FM. The new signal was finally launched on February 18th, 2013, and KLRC also continues to simulcast on 101.1 FM and on its translators at 99.1 FM in Bentonville and 103.5 in Springdale.
Meanwhile, staff growth at the station continued at a rapid pacel. Kara Bird would replace Kalynn in December of 2012, eventually assuming the position of Production Director. A part-time staff member, Kelly Keys, would be added to assist with administrative duties and gift processing in September 2013. Holly Hook joined the team as Director of Donor Relations in June of 2014, and JBU graduate Isaac Weaver was named KLRC's Director of Social Media in June 2016.