HALL COMMUNICATIONS' BIG 4 – In 1967 Robert M. “Bob” Hall sold his company, the Hall Syndicate - the largest privately-owned newspaper syndicate company in the country, to Field Enterprises of Chicago, publishers of the World Book Encyclopedia. He had already started his second career – in radio broadcasting – in 1964 with the purchase of his first radio station in Connecticut. This was the beginning of Hall Communications.
Hall Communications acquired its first two Lakeland stations in 1981, WONN AM 1230 and WPCV FM 97. The company expanded again in 1996 with the purchase of Lakeland’s WLKF AM 1430. That same year they also bought WKGF 98.3 FM, an Arcadia station, moved it to Lakeland, and changed the call letters to WWRZ which signed on in the spring of 1997. At this time these four radio stations became Central Florida’s Big 4.
For a couple of years all four stations occupied space in a building (built in the mid 1960’s) that had previously housed only two. In the summer of 1998 construction began which would more than double the size of the broadcast facility. In late 1999 the building project was completed and in January 2000 a dedication ceremony, followed by tours of the new building, was held for invited guests.
In 1991 Mr. Hall resigned as President of Hall Communications and named his son-in-law, Art Rowbotham, as his successor. In 1998, Mr. Hall resigned as Chairman of the Board, and his daughter, Bonnie Hall Rowbotham, assumed those responsibilities.
1998 was also the year that Hall Communications began a massive building and remodeling project to more than double the size of its Lakeland headquarters. The original building had been built in 1965 to house only one radio station, WONN. In 1983 WPCV moved in and in 1997 WLKF and WWRZ were added, making four stations in the building. The following summer construction began which would provide a new lobby, elevator, expanded sales and administrative offices, and an additional conference room and break area. The entrance was changed to front Harden Boulevard instead of West Lime Street. Attention was also given to the original section of the building which was refurbished and remodeled. New offices were added upstairs and a new studio and control room was built for WLKF. The entire expansion project was completed in late 1999.
Today (2012) Hall Communications (www.hallradio.com) owns 21 stations, 17 of which are located in the northeastern part of the United States. The other four, Central Florida’s Big 4 (WONN, WPCV, WLKF, and WWRZ), are located in Lakeland at 404 West Lime Street across from the Lakeland Center.
* * *
This section of RadioYears covers 1997 to the present – the years of the Big 4. The people in Who’s Who work or worked for each of the Big 4 stations simultaneously. Items in Photo Album, Memorabilia, and Audio Clips also reflect the Big 4. For staff and items not pertaining to all four stations simultaneously during this time period, see the individual station sections. Photos of Mr. Hall and Art & Bonnie Rowbotham prior to 1997 are included here for Hall Communications historical purposes.