DULUTH — Lovers of Ely radio station WELY have at least the summer to enjoy its popular lineup — its owner has given it a three-month extension while it explores potential deals.
The station, long a downtown staple for Ely residents, Boundary Waters paddlers and tourists, was about to close June 1st. Its owner, the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, has been losing money on the station for years, he said.
Bois Forte President Cathy Chavers said in a press release Friday that “many interested parties” were inquiring about a purchase.
“Let’s just hope a buyer steps in and saves the station,” Chavers said. “Bois Forte has done everything he can to keep the station alive, but now is the time for someone else to keep WELY – The End of the Road Radio – on the air.”
Ely Mayor Roger Skraba, who said in early May that he intended to save the station, said on Friday he had received several calls from potential private and not-for-profit buyers, which he directed towards Bois Forte.
“I’m pretty confident something is going to happen,” he said. “What’s happening now is the best-case scenario.”
Skraba said he was happy that Bois Forte “sees the value (of the resort) and is committed to operating it” while he searches for a buyer.
If none are found, the station will close on September 1.
WELY began broadcasting in 1954. Financial problems forced a closure in 1987, until CBS reporter Charles Kuralt, known for his “On the Road” program, bought the station in 1995. He took it over. operated until his death in 1997. Bois Forte bought WELY in 2005.
The station employs a full-time general manager and eight part-time employees.
In addition to music and emergency messages, WELY is the local source for Minnesota Twins baseball and Vikings football, regional news and area high school sports. Its reach extends through the upper arrowhead.