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Going through the roof: top of TCBY Tower provides perfect perch for antennas.

Going Through The Roof

Top Of TCBY Tower Provides Perfect Perch For Antennas

When Flake and Co. built the TCBY Tower in 1986, the architects thought about more than just floor plans. The roof of the building has grown to be a profitable leasing space for the company as well, with radio antennas and microwave dishes strategically placed on gridwork decorating its expanse.

Jolene Berg of Flake and Co. says that while plans for the roof weren't necessarily incorporated from the beginning of the building's design, they should have been because it's a great idea.

Flake and Co. leases the roof to Motorola Communications & Electronics Inc., which subleases to such tenants as Alltel Communications and Arkansas Power and Light. Motorola also operates and pays for electricity that links the roof antennas to transmitters on the floor below.

Different spots on the grid are rented out by Motorola for anywhere from $400 to $500 on up, depending on size and complexity. Flake and Co. is paid somewhere in the ballpark of $7,000 each month for use of the roughly 10,000-SF rooftop.

Instead of charging a flat fee, other buildings in town share a percentage of the rent with their management companies.

Darlene Welling of Broadcast Services, which handles the roof of the First Commercial Bank, says flat fees can sometimes cheat owners out of extra revenue that the management companies bring in. Leasing can create anywhere from $100,000 to one million a year, depending on what tenants the management company finds.

City's Most Popular Rooftop

With 13 companies adding at least 17 separate communications units since 1986, the roof of the TCBY Tower has grown to be the most popular building top in Little Rock for communication equipment.

Companies want their equipment to be seen on top of the building, but not because of TCBY's prestige.

FM radio wave lengths operate on line-of-sight transmission, which means antennas need a clear path for signals to beam from the ground or other spots in a 60-mile radius. As the tallest building in the city, the TCBY Tower meets all the requirements.

For instance, KARK Channel 4 has an omnidirectional antenna that is used to create live feed for the station. When a remote truck is sent to a particular location, it can send a signal to the antenna on top of TCBY, which then transmits the signal to the station for immediate coverage.

Part of Channel 4's original move from on top of the First Commercial Building to the TCBY Tower had to do with former station owner Larry Wallace's investment in the building. But there's another reason.

"The higher up you get," news director Bob Steel says in regard to the quality of transmission, "the better it is."

Towering Above The Competition

Specially built towers are available for antennas around town, but the top of the TCBY Tower offers more efficient features. It's important to position antennas as close as possible to transmitters to provide the maximum radio range. What would normally take about 500 feet of cable on a tower is condensed to about 25 feet on the TCBY roof since the transmitter is located on the floor below.

Frank Kennedy of Motorola uses an analogy of a leaky hose to explain the importance of the shorter cable. Just as a hose with a leak every 10 feet puts out a lower volume of water, an antenna cable gives off less strength the longer it has to travel. Subsequently, reception will not be as clear.

The design of the TCBY roof and the easy access of the transmitter room has created the potential for many more communication accesses on the building. For example, eight radio channels are combined into two antennas -- one for receiving and one for sending.

Room is also available for equipment that carries incompatible channels to be installed, along with adapters that eliminate interferences. Not all communication equipment needs the height level that the TCBY Tower provides.

Many companies such as Cellular One, Alltel Mobile Communications and National Satellite Paging simply must have the height of the building because there is only a small range in the antennas of cellular phones and pagers.

The list of TCBY roof tenants has increased from two to 13 since 1986, while the rental at neighbor First Commercial Bank has held at seven after losing AP&L to TCBY.

Other prominent buildings in the city such as the Worthen Bank building and the Union National Bank building have some lease space on their roofs, although not as much as the TCBY Tower. However, not all the owners of Little Rock's skyscrappers want antennas on their roofs.

Lenora Kennedy, property manager of the Stephens Building at 111 Center, has this view:

"We decided not to have any antennas so we wouldn't have to let everybody see that stuff."

PHOTO : VIEW FROM THE TOP: The top of the TCBY Tower provides hefty rental income for its owners and a clear path for tenants with antennas.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Rengers, Carrie
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Oct 29, 1990
Words:834
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