KTCZ-FM (97.1 FM, "Cities 97") is a Modern adult contemporary radio station broadcasting to the Twin Cities market of Minnesota and neighboring Wisconsin. The station is owned and operated by iHeartMedia, Inc. and transmits from a tower located in Shoreview, Minnesota. Its studios are in St. Louis Park.
The 97.1 frequency in Minneapolis is one of the oldest FM stations in the Twin Cities, having been established in 1947. The original call letters were WTCN-FM, to match its AM sister station, now WWTC, which was one of the oldest radio stations in Minneapolis-St. Paul, having signed on the air in 1925. In 1949, WTCN-TV was launched on channel 4 with studios at Radio City Theater at 9th Street and LaSalle Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. WTCN's studios moved to the TV facility in September 1949 and the FM was there, too, by February 1950. All three stations were sold in 1952; channel 4 was spun off to a new company, Midwest Radio and Television, which also purchased a majority share of WCCO Radio from CBS that same year. Midwest Radio and Television changed the call letters to match its newly acquired WCCO, while WTCN was sold to the Minnesota Television Service Corporation headed by St. Paul businessman Robert Butler, a former ambassador to Cuba and Australia. Butler's company quickly applied for a new TV license for channel 11 (but had to negotiate for the frequency with the owner of WMIN 1400, who also applied for the channel. The two stations, WTCN and WMIN, arranged to share the TV broadcast day, alternating every two hours. This became the area's third TV station (which today bears the call letters KARE) on September 1, 1953 and the WTCN call sign remained with it until 1985. Meanwhile, WTCN-FM became KWFM in 1954.
In the early 1980s, KTCR-FM was a struggling country music station. KTCR-FM was up against aggressive competition in the late 1970s and early 1980s, most notably KEEY, and Tedesco decided to sell the stations. The stations' new owners, John and Kathleen Parker (married), dropped the country format on February 8, 1984, and a unique new format was introduced. KTCZ ("Cities 97") was a different kind of station, featuring progressive rock, alternative rock, jazz and new-age music. The station's approach was similar to stations such as WXRT in Chicago and KBCO in Denver. KTCZ's other influences reach back even farther, to progressive FM rock stations from the 1960s and 1970s, particularly the freeform days of KQRS-FM.
Back then, the term 'AAA' did not even exist. It was a relatively eclectic rock format, far different from any other rock station around. Cities 97 has continued to thrive, building and sustaining a dedicated listening audience. Over time, the jazz and new-age was dropped, and the station went through a few different phases, at various points leaning more toward classic rock or alternative rock. Although Parker Communications sold the station back in the early 1990s, today's Cities 97 is still similar to the version that debuted in the fall of 1983, though the influence of its current owner can be felt heavily. Until recently, the station carried the syndicated talk show "Loveline", which had gotten strong ratings on the former KEGE. This was considered to be an odd move, since "Loveline" is geared toward a much younger demographic than KTCZ's, and conflicted heavily with their "more music" mandate.
The studios and transmitter were located at 38th Street and Minnehaha Avenue in south Minneapolis from at least the mid-1950s until 1985. The tower was short for a full-power FM station at approximately 150 feet. The transmitter in 1985 was moved to the site of its AM sister, then known as KTCJ, in New Hope, where it hung on one of the three AM towers. Later, the transmission facilities were upgraded with a move to the KMSP-TV Channel 9 tower in Shoreview, from where most of the other Twin Cities FM stations transmit. KTWN-FM 96.3 now uses the tower.
In 2012, the station dropped its longtime "Quality Music from Then and Now" positioner in favor of "Discover New Music" as the format evolved into modern adult contemporary.
On Sunday nights, Cities 97 airs a specialty show featuring local music. Some local music does make its way into fairly regular rotation, but many consider some of the area's public radio stations to be better sources of music by local artists.
On April 25, 2006, Clear Channel announced that KTCZ's HD2 subchannel will be Studio HD, featuring original acoustic rock and chill music. On December 23, 2012 KTCZ-HD2 changed their format to sports, branded as "The Score". By Autumn of 2013, "The Score" was replaced by a simulcast of the New Music specialty channel found on the Clear Channel-owned IHeartRadio online/mobile platform. In June 2014, following the flip of KQQL's HD2 channel, KTCZ-HD2 adopted 107.9-HD2's old format, '80s music, and branding, "Kool 1-0-80s" and later switched to EMF's Air 1 Christian rock format. Air 1 is simulcast on W225AP 92.9 FM.
Studio C is a small room located at the radio station that features recording equipment. Many acts who are coming to the Twin Cities are invited to come to the studio and play a few songs along with some brief fan interactions. Nearly all of the Cities 97 Sampler tracks are recorded here in front of a small audience, with the remaining tracks being live tracks from local shows around the Twin Cities. Many of the recordings do not make the cut for the sampler, but can be found on the Cities 97 webpage.