Ely’s legacy radio station, WELY, to close at the end of the month

KBJR 6 News at 10pm
Published: May. 11, 2022 at 11:19 PM CDT
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ELY, MN. (KBJR 6) - Ely’s beloved “End of the Road” radio station, WELY, may be reaching the end of its road by June, unless a last minute buyer emerges.

The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa has owned the station for 17 years.

In a press release, spokespeople said they’ve been working hard to make it profitable.

Despite those efforts, it’s lost more than $1.7 million.

Founded in 1954, WELY has been a staple in the community for decades.

“There’s a lot of interest in people that want to see it survive and thrive,” said general manager Brett Ross.

Ross has worked at the station since he moved to Ely in 1998.

“Literally within two days of moving here, I was on the air,” Ross said.

Back then, his job was to DJ for the night shift, but these days, there’s not much he doesn’t do.

From programming and sales to engineering, Ross has had to take on the roles of the people the station lost during the pandemic.

After pouring so much into WELY, he is heartbroken as the station faces financial hardships, and it’s not the first time.

The station closed in 1987, but broadcast legend Charles Kuralt saw it’s value and bought it in 1995.

“Of all the places that guy’s seen in America,” Ross said. “The fact that he’d pick this station in this town was pretty amazing.”

Ross said a rural community like Ely is the type of place where radio can still thrive.

“Here at the radio station, we have helped people all kinds of ways,” said Craig Loughery, host of WELY program, The End of the Road Trading Post.

He gets emotional at the thought of losing the gig he loves so much.

“I don’t know if I can not work,” said Loughery.

Despite an uncertain future, listeners are confident they’ll be able to turn on 94.5 for years to come.

“There’s so much potential here,” said Ross. “I feel like there is a future for WELY once it gets past this point.”

Ross said he will be doing one final live broadcast event for a Memorial Day service at the Ely cemetery on May 30th.

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