Steamboat Springs After an 18-day whirlwind fund-raising campaign that collected a full $2 million, the Friends of KUNC, a nonprofit group dedicated to saving the station's current programming schedule, won a bidding war for KUNC's broadcasting license Thursday.
Moved by northern Coloradans who were willing to open their wallets as well as their hearts, the University of Northern Colorado decided to sell KUNC to the nonprofit group for about $1.9 million, which virtually matched the cash-in-hand figure offered by Denver-based Colorado Public Radio.
The Denver network was interested in turning the station into a 24-hour news station, which would have eliminated the diverse blend of music in the station's current programming schedule.
Although the network had pledged to allow the Friends of KUNC to broadcast some music, the potential loss of the current programming format devastated some local listeners.
Because the two bids ended up being virtually identical, a university spokesman said the local support for keeping KUNC's programming as is ended up coming into play in the board's decision.
"I think when the two offers were compared and they came out to be (virtually equal), then some of the intangible factors came into play, one of them being the public support and depth of feeling of the listeners and supporters," university spokesman Ken McConnellogue said.
The Friends of KUNC was incorporated as Public Radio for Northern Colorado and will direct the station as such.
Local Friends of KUNC member Erick Glanz said the past 24 hours have been an emotional rollercoaster.
After hearing Wednesday that Colorado Public Radio had increased its base bid to $2 million from $1.3 million, including a $600,000 offer to buy out the station's endowment, he felt defeat was imminent.
"I can't believe it. When I heard they offered $2.6 million, I thought we were dead ducks," Glanz said. "It was an emotional flip-flop from total depression to total elation."
The $600,000 did not come into play because the station's endowment was not a guaranteed funding source, as contributors could pull their money out, McConnellogue said. In addition, $100,000 of the Denver network's offer would likely have been used for items like severance pay and not given directly to the university, McConnellogue said.
A $510,000 endowment fund the Friends group had offered to the university on top of the $1.4 million cash-in-hand, however, was guaranteed, bringing its total to $1.9 million.
The organization also reportedly received about $600,000 in pledges.
KUNC Station Manager Neil Best was ecstatic at the support that made the buyout possible, but is already looking ahead to the work that will have to be done, including packing up the station and moving into a new office off-campus.
"The important thing is just how truly touched we are," Best said. "It's just an exciting and also a scary time. There's a lot to do."
Best said the station will have to conduct another fundraising drive in the spring to cover costs.
Buzz Victor, chair of the Colorado Public Radio board, called the loss of KUNC "bittersweet" in a written statement Thursday.
He said he was content to see the station stay in the hands of public radio supporters.
After backing off a $1.9 million offer from Denver-based Colorado Public Radio on Feb. 9, the university gave the station's supporters 19 days to come up with a counter-offer to the Denver station.
Because the station could not solicit funds on the air, the 19-day grass-roots campaign that ensued relied heavily on word-of-mouth and the work of hundreds of volunteers.