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Broadcasting from a beach in Olympia

Days may be numbered for radio station's unique location. #k5evening

OLYMPIA, Wash. — KGY Radio broadcasts from a beach in Olympia. It's a rarity that drivetime disc jockey Michael Stein appreciates each day he's in his waterfront booth.

"It's like getting to play on a boat." 

This station was launched by Benedictine monks, on the campus of Saint Martin's University in 1922. It moved to its current location in 1960, broadcasting from the mid-century modern building perched on pilings on the beach at Budd Inlet, on land owned by the Port of Olympia.

KGY's lease with the Port of Olympia is up at the end of 2024.

"If the building goes away it'll be pretty sad," said Nick Kerry, KGY’s General Manager. "I think it would be a big disappointment for us and our family and I think it'd be a big disappointment for the community because this is one of Olympia's landmarks.”

KGY is still owned by the same family that purchased it in 1939. Kerry sits at the same desk his great grandfather Tom Olsen used. He's the 4th generation charged with keeping the seaside signal going strong.

"So we're trying to figure out what happens next, and the building has been nominated to the heritage register, so we'd really like to see this building preserved,” Kerry said.

Gerry Alexander, retired Washington Supreme Court Judge, and Greg Griffith, longtime historical preservation planning expert, are also fond of this retro radio station. And they're both on the board of the OIympia Historical Society.

"I think the building is significant,” Alexander said.

"We would like to see it protected for the future, we're looking into registration on the Olympia Heritage Register as well as the National Register of Historic Places,” Griffith added.  

The open staircase and midcentury modern features of the building have been well preserved, and that location makes this place unlike any other. Anyone who comes to work here can attest that playing classic rock from the waterfront has its perks — and quirks.

"When the tides in we wave at the kayakers,” Stein said.

“Sometimes we get these king tides, and they come up really high and they might kind of go into the edge of our parking lot,” Kerry said.

"And then people like to poke around and go under the building when the tide's out," Stein said. "It's like they're beachcombing under our workplace.”

KGY will continue to broadcast from classic rock from 95.3 on the FM dial if it leaves its waterfront home. Sister station KAYO which broadcasts country music from here on 96.9 FM will also remain on air.

But there are a lot of folks in Olympia who hope their local radio stations can stay right there on the beach. And stay salty.

"The city loves this place. This radio station, and it's a vital part of the community," Stein said. "I think it being here in this space too, that's important. This is kind of a landmark."

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