By Tanner Probus–
ESPN Radio 680 christened their Cardinal Towne studio Feb. 26 with a top-shelf party. Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse provided hors d’oeuvres and filet mignon straight off the grill. Maker’s Mark representatives poured Kentucky’s famous bourbon. The ESPN 680 personalities worked the crowd which included folks from Churchill Downs, the University of Louisville, Current 360, the Sports and Social Club and many more.
This new studio on Cardinal Boulevard is smack-dab in the middle of campus and next to several fast food restaurants. It is impossible to miss, right next to The Comfy Cow.
Many expect this new location will help bring more exposure to Louisville athletics. ESPN Radio host Drew Deener commented that he “wasn’t sure if it would directly expose the university as whole, but more just project the success that has already taking place around here”. Deener added that “at one point, attending the University of Louisville wasn’t necessarily something to brag about. It was the ‘little brother’ of the state.” However, now it is an honor to be a part of U of L, a trend that Deener expects will continue.
Co-owner of the new studio Chad Boeger explained how this whole idea was birthed three years ago in Kansas City, Mo. with Jeff Montgomery (retired 12-year Kansas City Royals pitcher), host Jason Anderson, and the rest of the WHB radio station crew. Within two years of broadcasting radio, their 810 AM station covered 44,000 square miles, making it the largest in the country. This quickly caught ESPN’s attention.
ESPN approached WHB about purchasing ESPN 680, which was playing Disney music at the time. Apparently they received an offer they could not refuse. Within months, they traveled to Louisville and according to Boeger, “simply fell in love with the market and passion for sport here.” They brought in local icons such as Bob Valvano, Drew Deener and Billy Reed to host/co-host their show.
When asked what convinced Deener to leave the “Early Birds Radio Show” to join ESPN, he explained how he met Chad Boeger at a Derby event at Churchill Downs in 2012. “After talking for a few hours,” Deener explained, “I realized we were basically the same person”. Boeger flew Deener to Kansas City to see the blueprints of their radio station and their vision for Louisville sports radio, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The project took off right away, but Deener and Boeger were not content with their initial studio, and felt it would be more logical to relocate. With Papalino’s Pizza going out of business in Cardinal Towne, ESPN radio seized opportunity and rented the open space for a brand new radio station. Montgomery emphasized how excited he was to be a part of new studio, saying, “It’s great for promotion purposes and is clearly visible for students and residents in the downtown area”. Although the 680 station is right by U of L, it is not strictly a Louisville sports station; they are also on 105.7AM providing sports broadcasts for the entire Lexington and Frankfort areas, which includes Indiana and Kentucky athletics.
ESPN 680 allows students or citizens to get involved with their through internships, volunteer opportunities and works with U of L’s broadcast team constantly. In addition, ESPN radio currently has the youngest radio co-host in the state of Kentucky, Jared Sullivan. When asked about his success at such a young age, Sullivan gave all credit to Drew Deener for taking him under his wing and giving him a chance. Sullivan explained how Deener is “the best in the business,” and helps him “grow and learn more each day in or out of the studio.” Sullivan relates very well to the younger sports audience and finds it “fulfilling” to have the opportunity to do so. It appears the sky is the limit for the young sports radio prodigy as well as the rest of ESPN 680 radio.
Photo courtesy of espn.go.com