Iconic Chicago rock station WLUP 'The Loop' sold to Christian broadcaster

Robert Channick, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Business News

CHICAGO -- Legacy Chicago rock station WLUP-FM 97.9, "The Loop," will be sold to broadcaster Educational Media Foundation for $21.5 million and will switch formats Saturday to Christian music.

The purchase agreement, struck last month and filed Monday with the Federal Communications Commission, moves the radio station, long a rock music fixture in Chicago, to a broadcaster whose K-LOVE adult contemporary Christian music format is heard on more than 600 stations nationwide.

"We're really excited about being able to get into the Chicagoland area," Mike Novak, president and CEO of California-based Educational Media Foundation, said Tuesday. "We're hopeful that we have some sort of impact on the people of Chicago and that we can provide a positive and encouraging atmosphere in these days of uncertainty."

The foundation is taking over WLUP's programming through an affiliation agreement prior to receiving FCC approval and closing on the station purchase, Novak said.

Chicago rock music fans will be in for a shock.

WLUP was launched in 1977, and the station quickly became the nexus of rock music and irreverent radio in Chicago.

A part of the culture in a city' where young listeners in black Loop T-shirts became an army of rockers, the station launched the career of Chicago radio icon Steve Dahl.

"If you grew up in Chicago in the late '70s, '80s or '90s, The Loop was your radio station," Dahl said Tuesday. "We were all in our 20s back when we started it ... and the music and the community helped an entire generation of Chicagoans define who they are today."

The station caused a near riot in July 1979, when Dahl, then WLUP-FM's morning man, hosted Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park and invited fans to bring records for him to blow up between games, forcing the White Sox to forfeit the second game of a doubleheader with the Detroit Tigers.

WLUP is owned by Merlin Media, which has been shopping the station since bankrupt Cumulus Media opted out of a deal last month to buy The Loop and WKQX-FM 101.1 for $50 million.


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