History of WEFT
In 1975, a group of radio enthusiasts, artists, and community minded individuals worked together to realize the potential of bringing a variety of programming and people together behind one frequency. Rather than being limited to the strictures of what Studs Terkel called "narrowcasting", the founders of WEFT made the commitment to cast its net much wider, in the spirit of true broad-casting.
The call letters came from a retired navy ship radio station. The concept was to take the word weft, a weaving term (the weft, the warp, and and the weave), to unite the distinct and varied threads of culture and views from listening community, to be reflected in the on-air programming.
By 1980, WEFT was one step closer to the airwaves, as it began broadcasting first as a cable FM station in 1980, based at it's only home, 113 N. Market St., in the heart of downtown Champaign. After six years of fundraising, organizing and paper chasing, WEFT transmitted its first official broadcast signal at 90.1FM on September 26, 1981. With a transmitter towering over the rooftop of the old Inman Hotel just around the corner from the station, that first signal had a power of just fewer than 1,000 watts.
By 1988, WEFT had an opportunity to increase its power from 1,000 to 10,000 watts of stereo. This expansion enlarged the coverage area bordering on several adjacent counties, broadcasting to several towns and villages throughout East Central Illinois.
During the 1990s, WEFT built its volunteer staff and enhanced its programming capabilities. In 1992, the station purchased the building that has housed the WEFT studios since the beginning. In 1993, WEFT went to a 24-hour format, increasing the need for volunteers but also allowing more community members to have a voice on the airwaves. By the mid-late 1990s, efforts were made to expand the station's promotional efforts into the community, and replace some aging equipment.
The year 2001 marked both paying off the building mortgage and 20 years of successful broadcasting. In 2003, major changes were made to the front quarter of the building. Those changes not only improved the appearance and code standards of the building, but provided access to those people with mobility limitations in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
By 2005, WEFT began another series of efforts to replace its engineering equipment, rewire, and renovate its studios. On May 30, 2008, a lighting storm damaged the 20 year old tube transmitter, knocking WEFT off the air for over a week. Running on reduced power from temporary transmitters of 50 then 1000 watts, WEFT installed a solid state transmitter and re-established full operational power by the 4th of July.
WEFT is constantly working on improving technology and programming and offering more opportunities at the station for the benefit of listeners and those wishing to have a community voice.
Big Al's History of WEFT from his Wednesday April 22 show during the 2015 Spring Pledge Drive.
Interestingly back in 1937 the upstairs of WEFT's building 113 1/2 and Dave Monk's building 115 1/2 were a gambling establishment. Thanks to the Urbana Free Library Archives, here's a story about Champaign's Gambling Hotspots one of which was the Turf Club part of Gamblers Row
Remembrances from Bill Taylor - One of WEFT's Founders "The WEFT building was owned by Bob Grubb when I bought it in the 80's. We had been sharing the heating system with other buildings that the Grubb brothers owned in that block, since Grubb Engraving had occupied the second floors of much of that block. Bob Grubb wanted to split off the WEFT building from that system and convert us to electric heat. Back then, that seemed to be too expensive for WEFT to sustain, so I bought the building from Bob and we kept the shared heat. That was a short term solution, and WEFT bought me out in the early 90'S."
WEFT Video from the 90's https://youtu.be/X0EJEIGP4BQ Clips of many WEFTies who helped make WEFT what it is today. How many do you recognize?
In the spring of 2020 WEFT completed a project our volunteers had worked on for a couple years. Order a new antenna and get it installed on a new, taller tower. This video documents some of the project
thanks Mark Niswander
You can view this and other WEFT related videos on our Youtube Page
If you have questions contact WEFT's Station Manager at 217-359-9338.