BREWER, Maine — There will be a new 24-hour FM sports radio station debuting on Jan. 1 and two familiar sports personalities will headline the local coverage.
Dale Duff, the former WLBZ-TV sports director/anchor and WZON-620 AM sports director, and Clem LaBree, his former WZON right-hand man and broadcast partner, will have a morning sports talk show from 6-8 a.m. on 92.9 WEZQ-FM.
They will also handle play-by-play and color analyst duties on their local high school sports broadcasts.
Duff’s formal title is brand manager and LaBree is the assistant brand manager.
WEZQ-FM is switching from an easy listening adult contemporary format to an all-sports station aligned with ESPN radio.
Duff and LaBree used to have a 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. sports talk show on WZON before being moved to the 4 to 6 p.m. time slot. They were fired by station owner Stephen King on May 31 after Duff and LaBree had worked at WZON for more than 18 years each.
Duff and LaBree will be followed by the final two hours of the Mike and Mike in the Morning (Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic) talk show, The Herd with Colin Cowherd from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., SVP and Russillo (Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo) from 1 to 4 p.m., Coach and Company (Jonathan Coachman and Tim Legler) from 4 to 7 p.m. and Hill and Schlereth (Mike Hill and Mark Schlereth) from 7 to 10 p.m.
SportsCenter Tonight will air from 10 p.m. to midnight, ESPN Radio Game Night will be on from midnight to 2 a.m. and SportsCenter AllNight will go from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.
The station will also carry New England Patriots and Boston Bruins games and ESPN radio games, including the Bowl Championship Series (college football); NBA regular-season and playoff matchups, and major league baseball games, including playoffs.
“This is based on the emergence of sports radio as a whole across the nation,” explained Tom Preble, general manager of Townsquare Media, which owns five radio stations — WEZQ 92.9 FM, Q106.5 FM (country), WWMJ 95.7 FM (classic oldies), Z107.3 FM (adult contemporary hits) and WDEA-1370 AM (timeless classics, Boston Red Sox games). “Sports radio has really taken off as a business model across the country.
“We also wanted to offer a vehicle for our male demographic since we have done very well satisfying our women’s demographics through Q106.5 and Z107.3. We want to cover all the bases.”
Preble said he is pleased to have Duff and LaBree handling the local coverage.
“When you think of two local gentlemen covering local radio sports, you have to think of these two guys,” said Preble. “And when you think of sports as a whole, you think of ESPN.”
“Just the work ethic, dedication and passion to their craft says a lot about who Dale and Clem are as individuals and that speaks volumes about the opportunity it presents for this radio station,” added Preble.
Duff and LaBree have been on board for a month and are looking forward to Jan. 1.
“It’s great. I’ve committed over 30 years or so into local sports and I’ve never left it with various things I’ve been doing [since leaving WZON],” said the 55-year-old Duff, who has added sports writing to his resume in recent months. “It’s exciting to have 50,000 watts on the FM side and to be affiliated with ESPN, with Tom and this company.”
“Everybody’s excited about it,” said LaBree, who is 41. “There’s a buzz [in the air]. It certainly has its place and we’re ready to get the ball rolling.”
Preble said the phones have been busy and the selling of advertising is going very well.
Duff said their morning talk show will be “tweaked everywhere” from the show they used to have on WZON.
“It’s going to be very, very local. That will be the key thing,” said Duff. “We will take phone calls, we’ll have guests.”
Duff and LaBree used to get a steady stream of repeat callers on WZON but Preble pointed out that “now they’ll have 50,000 watts [instead of a limited AM signal], so the footprint and the capability of reaching more listeners will be much greater. They will be able to reach people from Millinocket to Waterville, from Moosehead Lake [Greenville] to MDI [Mount Desert Island].”
Duff said they will constantly air local game results and updates pertaining to local sports stories on the station.
He said they will look to expand the morning show after they get through the winter sports season and they will consider adding a local afternoon sports talk show down the road.
“There are no full-service 24/7 sports radio stations in the area,” said Preble. “So the timing is perfect for us as a company. By full service, I mean if you broadcast a game on Friday night, you should be able to hear a recap on Saturday morning.”
Preble said there is a uniqueness to a sports station.
“You can hear your favorite [recording] artist on two or three different radio stations, but shows like Mike and Mike and Dale and Clem will be unique to our station and that’s what draws people to the format,” said Preble. “We want to be live, local and vital.”
Preble added that he would like to develop a segment concentrating on outdoor recreational activities in Maine.
Preble pointed out that there will also be a free app called “Radiopup” that listeners can dial up.
“So you’ll be able to follow us anywhere. Grandparents living in Arizona who want to listen [to their grandson’s or granddaughter’s] games will be able to do so,” said Preble.
The first local game to be broadcast by 92.9 FM “The Ticket” sports radio will be the Lawrence of Fairfield-Bangor boys basketball game on Jan. 2 at 7 p.m.