DULUTH - Ely's End of the Road Radio goes silent Thursday, but it's not over for the WELY station: New owners plan to take over early next year.
Longtime owner Bois Forte Band of Chippewa in May announced plans to close the radio station, once operated by CBS journalist Charles Kuralt. Several months of extensions were granted as the band searched for a buyer of the station, its Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license and the radio tower.
The band announced Tuesday that Shell Lake, Wis.,-based Zoe Communications, which owns 11 northwestern Wisconsin radio stations, has bought WELY for $130,000, according to a news release from Bois Forte. The purchase included equipment, the tower and licensing. Zoe Communications plans to operate out of a different building than its current Chapman Street location in downtown Ely, Minn., with Bois Forte keeping the building.
The station expects to resume operations pending FCC approval of the license transfer, which could take about 90 days, said Mike Oberg, general manager of Zoe Communications and a Minnesota native.
He said in the release that he doesn't plan major programming changes.
"We believe radio is still very important to a local community, and we hope to continue the tradition of keeping the local feel of Ely radio alive," Oberg said.
WELY first began broadcasting in 1954 until financial problems forced a closure in 1987. Kuralt, known for his "On the Road" program, bought the station in 1995, operating it until his death in 1997. Bois Forte bought WELY in 2005.
Aside from music and emergency messages, WELY is the local source of Minnesota Twins baseball and Vikings football coverage, regional news, weather and area high school sports.