ELIZABETHTOWN — The recent purchase agreement between Whiteville-based WODR Cool 105.3 FM and Augusta (Ga.) Radio Fellowship Institute, pending approval by the FCC, will mean the end of the beach music and oldies format Bladen County has grown accustomed to.
It could also mean the end for the Bladen Sports Network broadcasting East Bladen and West Bladen high-school football games, as well as the sponsorship of the Elizabethtown-White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce’s Summer Sounds Concert Series.
“I’m pretty shocked and disappointed,” said Dawn Maynard, executive director of the Chamber. “We’ve done a lot of things with them (Cool 105.3) over the years, but this will really change things — especially for the Summer Sounds.”
The Augusta-based company plans to change the format of the station to gospel music in an effort to fit in with its other holdings, which includes Georgia radio stations in Augusta, Bryon, Sparta and Vidalia. There has been no timetable for the change in format announced.
Ricky Leinwand, a member of the Bladen Sports Network broadcast crew, said he doesn’t mind the change in format — “though I do love listening to beach music” — but thinks the affects will go deeper than that.
“I’m really afraid the plan will be to syndicate the station and there will be no employees here,” said Leinwand. “It could mean the end of broadcasting Eagles and Knights football. We’ll look for other options, of course, but there aren’t many left out there.”
Leinwand added that the games this season are protected.
“We have a contract with them, even in the event of being sold, to broadcast the games through the playoffs,” he said. “But beyond high-school football, this will also affect Carolina broadcasts, which is also near and dear to me.”
Both Leinwand and Maynard said the sale of the radio station will be a big hit to a lot of people in the region.
“They’ve meant a lot to people from here all the way to the beach,” Leinwand said.
“Quite a few businesses have advertised with them and a lot of people listen to them every day,” Maynard said.
The sale is also expected to change many of the appearances by Cool 105.3 celebrities at community events like the Dublin Peanut Festival and others.
Don Arnsan, general manager of WODR, said on Friday he was unable to make any public comments about the pending sale until the FCC gives its final approval. He said that could come sometime in November.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.