After more than five decades in Wilmington, WWAY-TV3 will move across the bridge to Leland this spring.
A big move and a change in zip code are in the works for WWAY-TV 13. This spring the station’s anchors will be saying “good evening” from the desks of their brand-new, state-of-the-art studio at 1224 Magnolia Village Way Road in Leland.
“I think I speak for the whole town council when I say, we’re excited,” says Leland Mayor Brenda Bozeman.
The announcement that WWAY would be moving across the bridge after more than a half-century of broadcasting from downtown Wilmington came in March, when parent company Morris Network, Inc. purchased the former Thunder Alley building with plans to transform it into a TV station like none the area has ever seen.
“There will be a café and a conference center where civic organizations like rotary clubs can hold meetings,” says WWAY General Manager Andy Combs. “To have a public space as part of a TV station is very, very unique in our industry. This was something our owner really wanted.”
WWAY came on the scene as the ABC affiliate and the second TV news station in Wilmington on October 30, 1964. Back then they broadcasted from the 10th floor of the 1914 Murchison Building on the corner of Front and Chestnut streets. In 1969 WWAY moved to its own building at 615 N. Front Street, where they have remained.
“As a child growing up I remember WWAY being in the old Murchison building downtown and then moving to their spot now,” Bozeman says. “To know they’re coming to Leland is just phenomenal. Leland has come a long way.”
Combs says Leland is the perfect fit, as it brings WWAY closer to its transmission tower in Winnabow. Additionally, many of the employees, including its news director, already live in Brunswick County. Growing pains also contributed.
“We picked up CBS in January and added additional staff; we were just out of space,” Combs says. “To move into a brand-new facility and have the opportunity to start from scratch and build a facility with state-of-the-art equipment is going to be huge.”
The new Leland building will be nearly double the size of WWAY’s longtime Front Street location.
Contractor McKinley Building Corp has a massive multi-million-dollar renovation to the former bowling alley underway. All new studio equipment of the highest level of technology is being brought in. The news set and weather center will be constructed with modern built-in video walls.
“We believe the video walls will give us the opportunity to change the look of the set for different newscasts,” Combs says. “Having this flexibility is extremely important to us. Also, the design of the set and the materials we use will represent the architecture and surroundings in our viewing area.”
The studio and WWAY offices will take up the back two-thirds of the building. WWAY’S café and conference center in the front will be for the public to enjoy. Meetings scheduled at the new WWAY site have the option of being catered and, if newsworthy, covered on the evening news.
“That’s going to be interesting to see the transformation, going from a bowling alley to a TV station. I can’t wait to see it,” Bozeman says.
WWAY was originally owned by Cape Fear Telecasting. Current owner Morris Network, Inc. owns and operates six television stations on the East Coast. Each carries three different network affiliates.
WWAY’S move to Leland adds more than 70 jobs to Leland’s economy. News coverage of both Leland and Wilmington as well as coverage of the total five counties WWAY is responsible for will remain equal, Combs says. “We go where the news is.”
Plans are to be moved in to the new station on Magnolia Village Way by mid to late April, just in time for May sweeps. The very first official meeting in the new WWAY conference center is scheduled for the first week in May for the Morris Network, Inc. corporate retreat of all six stations.
The station is excited about moving to Leland and about the welcome they are already receiving.
“It feels really good to be appreciated and wanted,” Combs says.