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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Calling it "the beginning of a new adventure," WDRB President and General Manager and other dignitaries took part Wednesday in a ceremonial groundbreaking for an expansion of WDRB-TV. That expansion will allow it to hire more people while maintaining its presence in downtown Louisville.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, and Louisville Metro Council President Jim King attended the groundbreaking, along with Allan Block, Chairman of Block Communications, the owner of the TV station.
"We tend to go against the grain," WDRB President and General Manager Bill Lamb said just before the groundbreaking. "We kind of take a look at tough times and we try to figure out opportunity in those tough times." Lamb also praised WDRB's employees: "If you look behind me, these aren't good people, these are great people. And if you accumulate enough great people and let them do what they do, your growth is accelerated."
Lamb also said staying in downtown Louisville was important: "This is our home, this is where we want to be, and we just want to have a little bit bigger footprint here."
Allan Block said, "We have built this station from being just a weak independent with a weak signal to being market-leading and even leading in the whole Commonwealth of Kentucky."
King said he returned from Disney World with his family to attend Wednesday's groundbreaking: "This is much better than Disney World, I got to tell you," he said. "My grandchildren didn't quite understand what this was all about, but one of these days they will, they'll see how important this was."
Lamb reminded Lt. Gov. Abramson that he used to be a talk show host on WDRB. "Until you fired me," Abramson dead-panned to general laughter.
Lamb replied, "If the lieutenant governor thing doesn't work out, we still have your business card."
Abramson looked at the card and read, "News and Views -- it was a public issues half an hour on Sunday, and you canceled me."
"We'll give you another audition," Lamb promised, then turned to Gov. Beshear and asked him, mock seriously, if he'd ever been to a groundbreaking before. "You know, this is the very first one," the governor replied, "and I'm nervous because I don't know where to throw the dirt. I do in a political campaign, but this is a groundbreaking."
Lamb explained how he convinced Allan Block to back the expansion: "We brought Mr. Block a can of sardines for our pitch meeting -- we showed him that this was the seating chart if we didn't get our expansion."
"Considering everything that had been accomplished here, and how successful this operation has been, it was clearly the right decision to allow you to have more space," Block said.
WDRB has been a part of Louisville and southern Indiana for more than four decades.
On Feb. 28, 1971, WDRB signed on the air at 10 a.m. The station had just two dozen employees, and children's programming was one of the station's main selling points.
Ten years after its beginning on East Main Street, WDRB moved to a brand-new building at the corner of Seventh Street and Muhammad Ali Blvd.
"This building was designed for 40 people, plus Presto the Clown," said Lamb. "We've got 165 in here now."
In 1987, the station became a charter affiliate of the Fox Network and became Fox 41.
In 1990, WDRB started a 10 p.m. newscast. Since then, we've expanded to present more than 52-1/2 hours of news each week. Our WDRB family has simply outgrown its home.
Our building expansion will add 11,500 square feet, giving us more space and resources to do our jobs, including a second studio.
"Every television station, radio station, and newspaper in the country laid people off in 2009, but us," Lamb said. "We hired people in 2009. Our plan is to continue to add more. We need more reporters, more photographers, more people for our website."
It's all part of Bill Lamb's goal: "We want to give Louisville a great television station," Lamb said.
An artist's rendering of what the building will look like in a few months is pictured at right.