Honolulu skyline loses iconic TV tower

A TV and radio broadcast tower that has stood in the center of urban Honolulu since 1962 will officially be gone within a month, but not for a lack of trying. Crews started dismantling the iconic structure in October of last year and were supposed to be finished by now, but weather conditions and structural challenges (including unseating pilings that reach 66ft underground) have held up consistent progress.

The now-vacant 432ft tower was owned by Raycom Media and most recently aired DTV signals for KGMB-TV (CBS) and KHON-TV (Fox) before being forced into retirement. KGMB left the site in October 2009, when it combined news operations with KHNL (NBC) and KFVE (MyNetwork TV). The three stations are now collocated at KHNL’s facility in Kalihi, and their signals emanate from a much higher elevation at Palehua Ridge, which overlooks downtown Honolulu.

Rick Blangiardi, general manager of Hawaii News Now (a Raycom Media news department shared by three local TV stations: KGMB, KFVE and KHNL), told a local newspaper that the structure is being taken down slowly and carefully.

“We're taking this down in a neighborhood with people walking underneath on the sidewalk and cars going by on the street,” Blangiardi said, adding that the new towers at Palehua Ridge provide stronger signals that can reach and serve the local homes better. “We were really getting to a point where we were compromised in our abilities from a technical standpoint.”

Crews from tower construction company Sky Jack Communications, in Hanapepe, HI, have removed the 70ft mast, cutting it into 1500lb pieces and lowering them to the ground, and are now working on the tower itself. Its legs will be unbolted in smaller sections to be lowered to the ground.

For years the tower stood out at night in the Honolulu skyline, beaming the neon call letters KGMB and AKU, for KGMB's popular DJ J. Akuhead Pupule, aka Hal Lewis. It has transmitted signals for KGMB Channel 9, KHET Hawaii Public Television and FM stations KGMB (now KSSK) and KQMQ. Lewis worked in studios at the foot of the tower, but his show was broadcast from a separate AM tower.

The tower site and studios/offices are being converted into 17,000sq ft of stores and restaurants with glass frontage. Developer Lionking II bought the property in early 2008 for $12.35 million.