“You come through, loud and clear.”
That’s just what the staff at Minnesota Christian Broadcasters Inc. (MCBI) in Pequot Lakes wanted to hear when WZFG 100.1 FM The Pulse switched to the former KLKS 104.3 FM radio frequency last Wednesday, Sept. 12.
MCBI bought KLKS’ frequency, and KLKS went off the air at midnight Tuesday, Sept. 4. The frequency was silent for about a week, and when music started airing once again the format had changed from soft contemporary to Christian contemporary music.
The Pulse went from 6,000 watts of power to 50,000 watts with the frequency change, meaning the station reaches an additional 100,000 listeners.
That’s something MCBI had been trying to attain for a long time, said general manager Mike Heuberger from his office on Brunes Street, just off Highway 371 next to American National Bank. He happily reported that listeners can now tune in to The Pulse from just north of St. Cloud to north of Walker, and from McGregor to Wadena and New York Mills.
MCBI got its start in 1974 when a group of pastors led by Dick Beals applied to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the 100.1 FM radio frequency.
“There was no Christian radio station up here and he was interested in starting one,” Heuberger said of Beals. “He met with pastors and laymen and presented the idea of offering Christian radio in the lakes area.”
The frequency was first assigned to Nisswa, and then was moved to Pequot Lakes because two MCBI board members — Gil Arvig and Jim Brunes — worked at Arvig Telephone Co. in Pequot Lakes. The telephone company was erecting a tower for its use, and MCBI wanted to use the tower for the radio station as well.
“It took three years to get the FCC to approve the license and the move to Pequot Lakes,” Heuberger said. “They (MCBI board members) were determined to get the station on the air.”
Finally, in December 1977, the FCC granted a construction permit to put the station on the air. That’s when Beals contacted Heuberger about being the general manager.
Heuberger had worked for Christian radio in Fargo, N.D.; Waterloo, Iowa; and Fort Wayne, Ind.; and in March 1978, he moved with his family to the lakes area.
On April 30, 1978, a Sunday afternoon, KTIG 100.1 FM signed on the air from the Arvig (now TDS) building in Pequot Lakes.
“When we signed on the air we were a 3,000-watt station. There were hardly any FM stations on the air at that time,” Heuberger, noting the other area radio stations at the time were KLIZ AM and KVBR AM in Brainerd.
KTIG reached from Brainerd to Pine River-Backus. “We had pretty good coverage for a 3,000-watt station,” Heuberger said.
In 1983, MCBI bought land for its own building from Brunes, and the radio station moved to its current location, airing from 6 a.m. to midnight. It jumped to 24-hour programming on Dec. 1, 1985, using one of the first automation systems overnight.
Soon MCBI realized it needed a powerful signal. In June 1990, power increased to 6,000 watts.
“I’ll never forget the day before it happened, I watched the engineer climb the tower and install a new antenna,” Heuberger said.
MCBI applied for a new frequency to keep up with more powerful FM stations that came on the air, and moved KTIG to 102.7 FM on Aug. 26, 1994, with 50,000 watts of power.
MCBI immediately applied for its former 100.1 frequency with the goal of offering a contemporary Christian music station for youth. After a few stumbling blocks, MCBI eventually acquired the 100.1 frequency and WZFG 100.1 FM went on the air as Z-100 with 6,000 watts of power on Dec. 1, 2002.
Along the way, MCBI also acquired KCFB 91.5 FM in St. Cloud in 1997, and increased that station’s power from 800 watts to 15,000 watts in November 1999 to reach more listeners. That station airs the same programming as KTIG.
A few years ago, Z-100 changed to The Pulse. Tim Norton came on board as that station’s program director and changed the format from Christian rock to contemporary Christian music. Then began the search for a way to increase the station’s reach.
“Up here, it’s almost impossible to put a tower up with all the rules and regulations,” Heuberger said. “There was a lot of praying going on by our staff and listeners.”
Those prayers were answered when they heard last spring that KLKS’ 104.3 FM frequency was for sale.