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October 21, 2014

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Special focus on technology:

Vegas PBS moves final gear to new campus

Image

Steve Marcus

Stephanie Machado, left, 10, “Dog” from the TV show “WordWorld” and Dalandra Diallo, 8, at Vegas PBS’ Educational Technology Campus on June 28. Children from the Ralph and Betty Engelstad Boys and Girls Club joined in the ceremonies marking completion of the new Vegas PBS campus.

Click to enlarge photo

Tom Axtell, right, general manager of Vegas PBS, speaks during the official opening of the Educational Technology Campus on Flamingo Road on June 28.

Vegas PBS has completed its move into its new Education Technology Campus after more than a decade of planning and construction.

The eco-friendly building is home to Vegas PBS’ operations and production services in addition to its emergency alert efforts, and also supports the Clark County School District Virtual High School facilities, which focus on distance online education.

The 112,000-square-foot, $60 million building funded through a private and public partnership, was under consideration in 1999 after a Federal Communications Commission order requiring broadcasters to transition to digital broadcasting.

Vegas PBS provides broadcast TV and cable over seven channels with an additional six educational channels provided directly to Clark County School District classrooms.

Eight sites were considered before officials picked the 3000 block of East Flamingo Road, east of Eastern Avenue, officials said. The old studio off Flamingo Road is less than a mile to the west.

The new building will house 105 full-time employees, 30 interns and about 40 part-time teachers.

Construction started in July 2007, and the building was completed in 2009. But internal wiring for fiber-optic networking, moving satellite dishes and fire suppression systems in technical areas weren’t completed until this year, S General Manager Tom Axtell said.

Television office staff and educational media staff moved into a portion of the building in March 2009 when Vegas PBS received a partial temporary occupancy permit from the Clark County, Axtell said. Virtual High School staff moved into its spaces in June 2009. TV production staff moved into their office and editing spaces in January, and production studios and broadcast engineering staff moved in May, he said.

Vegas PBS moved in four phases since not all of the building, or all operating systems, were completed until May. The accelerated and phased move-in was requested by the School District so it could lower its rental expense in commercial buildings to reduce nonclassroom expenses, Axtell said.

An institutional image study and community needs survey was conducted in 2003, Axtell said. The company was rebranded from KLVX to Vegas PBS when it was learned that prospective donors did not support a new TV building for Channel 10. They understood, however, the need for a digital media campus when the proposed multichannel television, online educational media center, and “hybrid virtual education services” were explained, he said.

A multiprong-capital plan was approved, calling for the School District to fund the Virtual High School, and Southern Nevada Public TV volunteers agreed to raise private funds for the TV portion of the building and the digital equipment for public TV. The money was supplemented with federal matching grants and a lease of its available radio frequencies for 4G digital service for wireless carriers to Sprint.

The School District provided $27 million for portions of the buildings and $3 million for the land. The leasing provided $18 million for the building. Southern Nevada Public TV secured individual, corporate and foundation grants, and government grants provided the remainder, Axtell said.

The campus is considered a model for sustainability and green building practices in the Southwest and has instituted various green technologies to help the environment, officials said.

Designed by the architectural firm JMA and built by Martin-Harris Construction, the facility is in line to become the first television building in the country to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold certification, officials said.

Among its features cited:

• The building’s solar-voltaic panels are the largest installation of panels on a commercial building in Nevada.

• The campus is also the first broadcast building built to standards that ensure that should Las Vegas experience an earthquake, the campus can withstand large-scale seismic shocks and still serve as a major hub for creating and transmitting information.

• The geothermal system used to cool the building involves wells that are as deep as the Mandalay Bay is tall. There are 200 of these 400-foot deep wells underneath the building that play a vital role in cooling the facility. These wells are predicted to save the building approximately 21 percent in air-conditioning costs.

Vegas PBS moved to the new campus because its old building was built for television in the film era and for 35 employees, Axtell said. Transition from film to videotape, and now from tape to digital computer servers made the old building obsolete, he said.

“There was inadequate air conditioning that made the location of media servers in chilled rooms impossible, asbestos in ceilings made placement of fiber cables unsafe and the advent of desktop computers and other energy-consuming equipment overwhelmed the electrical capacity,” Axtell said.

With 105 employees, some staff had to share desks and five trailers were used for editing, media storage and office needs. The growth of nonbroadcast services such as Ready to Learn, a Vegas PBS educational project that provides literacy and health-based workshops to schools and families, and the Virtual High School exacerbated the overcrowding, he said.

The School District will use one of the old studios for a computer maintenance call center, and the other to configure and repair computers used in schools, Axtell said.

As for the relationship with the School District, it received permission from the FCC to operate Channel 10 in Las Vegas in 1966 and began operations in 1968. The district originally funded all station costs since all original production was for classroom instruction, and national programming was distributed at nominal cost by a nonprofit corporation called National Educational Television, Axtell said.

In 1971, after PBS began, a nonprofit corporation called Channel 10 Friends was formed to provide private funds for local public television productions and promotions. Over time, the nonprofit group organized charity drives and donations from individuals, corporations and foundations and gradually became the dominant source of funds for Channel 10, Axtell said.

In 1996, during a state budget crises, the School District ended funding for all Channel 10 television productions and equipment. In 1999, the district asked Southern Nevada Public TV to raise all capital funds for the federally mandated conversion from analog to digital TV. The district agreed to fund nonbroadcast direct educational media services to schools, and Southern Nevada Public TV agreed to fund public TV, cable, and Internet services for the public, Axtell said.

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