WGN Radio leaving Tribune Tower next year

Tribune Tower

It’s official: WGN AM 720 will be leaving its longtime headquarters at Tribune Tower and relocating next year to new studios and offices across the Chicago River.

The decision to move, confirmed by Tribune Broadcasting Tuesday, came despite earlier assurances that management of the news/talk station had no plans to leave Tribune Tower and intended to extend its lease with the building’s new owners. The current lease expires in June 2018.

Instead, WGN Radio will join two other units of Tribune Media in moving across the river to the Illinois Center complex, occupying two floors of the 28-story high-rise at 303 East Wacker Drive. Tribune Media sold the 1925 landmark neo-Gothic Tribune Tower at 435 North Michigan Avenue last year to Los Angeles-based developer CIM Group in a $240 million deal.

Word of the move also comes as WGN Radio is on track to be sold as part of the $6.6 billion acquisition of Tribune Media by Sinclair Broadcast Group.

“I’m pleased to tell you that we have decided to relocate WGN Radio to 303 E. Wacker, the same building in which the broadcast and technology groups will be working,” Larry Wert, president broadcast media for Tribune Media, wrote in a memo to staff.

“We purposely chose this space in order to remain together as a broadcast ‘family.’  The new space is being custom-designed for the radio station and will be state-of-the-art.  While we will give up the showcase studio on Michigan Avenue, listeners will hear no difference in the outstanding programing WGN has provided for nearly nine decades.

“The build-out of our new space is progressing rapidly and we’re excited by the opportunities it presents,” he wrote.

At Tribune Tower, where the station was founded by the Chicago Tribune (“The World’s Greatest Newspaper”), WGN currently occupies facilities on the seventh floor in addition to the street-level showcase studio overlooking Michigan Avenue and Pioneer Court.

Here is the text of Wert’s memo to WGN staff:

All – 
 
As you know, last fall the company sold Tribune Tower.  Over the past several months we’ve been reviewing our options for relocating WGN Radio; the station’s lease at the Tower expires in June 2018 and the new owner expects to repurpose the space we currently use. 
 
I’m pleased to tell you that we have decided to relocate WGN Radio to 303 E. Wacker, the same building in which the broadcast and technology groups will be working.  We purposely chose this space in order to remain together as a broadcast “family.”  The new space is being custom-designed for the radio station and will be state-of-the-art.  While we will give up the showcase studio on Michigan Avenue, listeners will hear no difference in the outstanding programing WGN has provided for nearly nine decades. 
 
The build-out of our new space is progressing rapidly and we’re excited by the opportunities it presents.  From an employee stand-point, 303 E. Wacker has several advantages, including easy access to mass transportation, parking, multiple dining options, a free gym, a free shuttle between the building and both Union Station and Ogilvie Transportation Center, and access to the Loop’s underground pedway.   
 
I know it’s difficult to think about leaving the Tower, but it won’t be the first time the radio station has left the building.  From the early 1960s through the mid-80s, WGN Radio operated from Bradley Place on the north side of the city.
 
While the move is several months away, now would be a good time to begin the process of sorting through files and other materials and determining what’s worth keeping and what’s not.  We’ll have more information about document retention in the days ahead.
 
As we move forward, we’ll keep you updated regarding our progress in the build-out of WGN Radio’s new home.  In the meantime, please let Todd, Jeff or me know if you have questions. Big thanks to Bill M. and Todd and Jeff on helping us assess our options here.
 
720 Love,

Larry

303 East Wacker Drive