WCIE-FM 91.3 Lakeland – From the mid 1970’s to the mid 1990’s Christian young people in Central Florida had a special station they could call their own. It was 100,000 watt WCIE (Where Christ Is Everything). Originally going on the air on 91.3 with 50kw in 1975, Lakeland’s Evangel Christian School, the licensee, received FCC permission to move to 91.1 which not only gave the station a boost in power but also a reduction in interference with a Tampa Bay Catholic owned station. Transmitting from Lakeland on a 500 foot tower located north of Interstate 4 on Knights-Griffin Road, WCIE had a signal that covered Central Florida from St. Petersburg east to Orlando and from Ocala south to Sebring.
The station’s original studios were located inside First Assembly of God Church at 1350 East Main Street in Lakeland. In 1985, after the church had bought the Carpenter’s Home property off US 98 North, it built a new 10,000-seat sanctuary and changed the name to Carpenter’s Home Church. WCIE’s studios were also moved there and were located on the second floor above the vast auditorium.
WCIE was state of the art in every aspect. It was a time just before music began to be programmed from hard drives. Management wanted the cleanest and clearest sound possible, so the station’s entire music library was eventually on compact disc – each housed in a plastic case and never touched by the human hand.
One of the groundbreaking stations in the field of contemporary Christian music, WCIE occasionally took on the sound of a Christian rock station. There were many station-sponsored concerts featuring the top name groups and individuals in the field of contemporary Christian music that drew thousands to the church. Since it was a non-commercial listener-supported station, WCIE held fund raisers, called share-a-thons, to raise money to operate the station.
And listeners? Well, WCIE probably had more listeners than any secular station in the area. However, it was difficult to get an accurate gauge of its ranking with other area stations since the rating services, such as Arbitron, did not include non-commercial stations in their surveys.
The old saying goes, “nothing lasts forever” – and that can apply to any top radio station, Christian or otherwise. On August 1st, 1996, when the song “Jesus Freak” by DC Talk ended, WCIE went silent. The station had been sold to Moody Bible Institute for $5 million to satisfy church debts. The WCIE call letters eventually changed when WKES and its programming moved from its former101.5 frequency to its new home at 91.1.
Lakeland’s WCIE may be gone but the memory of FM 91 lives on in the minds of its former listeners, supporters, and staffers who still remember it as “their station.” Today (2010), the WCIE call letters live on in Tampa Bay at FM 91.5 in New Port Richey, owned by the Radio Training Network.
WCIE on-air personalities from the mid 1970’s through the 1980’s were Paul Garber (PD), Jim Casey (chief engineer), Barry Landis (PD), Stephen Winters (news director; mornings and host of “Feedback”), Darlene Drew (news director), Rita Christie (“Have a Jesus-filled day!”), Rodger Roth (chief engineer), Lynn Miller Breidenbach (news director), Dave Kirby, Jim Gates (mornings), Dave Stewart, Danny Strader, Gary Parker, B.J. Harris, Alice Faye Redd, Rick Hoover (PD), Bill Scott (news), Kevin Wallace (music director). Tom Trulson (news), and Rick Thomas (Rick Elmhorst, news). Jim Campbell was general manager and Jon Hull served as station manager and program director.
During WCIE’s final years, from 1992 to 1996, Rick Thomas managed the station. Others from this period include Dave Kirby (program director), Kevin MacKenzie, Bill Carl, Jim Mann, Mark Rider, Larry Wayne, J.D. Richards, Kevin Sikes and Sean Bart.
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