WGN radio towers annexed into Elk Grove, with data centers and pickleball courts to come

Long an unincorporated neighbor, WGN radio's transmitter site is the newest corporate citizen of Elk Grove Village under the 102-acre property annexation approved by village trustees Tuesday.

But the 16-page pre-annexation agreement between the municipality and radio station owner Nexstar Media Group calls for more than the two radio towers and small building that houses the station's transmitters and backup studio at 720 Rohlwing Road.

Nexstar, the Irving, Texas-based company that acquired the 50,000-watt AM station in 2019, plans to sell off the southern 35 acres of the property for a three-building data center campus and ancillary electrical substation, and construct six public pickleball courts to be leased to the Elk Grove Park District.

The primary 750-foot communications tower, and its 250-foot backup, will be demolished, replaced and relocated slightly to the north. The satellite office housing radio equipment and a garage with landscaping equipment will remain intact.

Under a phased construction plan contained in the agreement, Nexstar first plans to install a nine-foot landscaped berm and eight-foot precast screen wall along the south and west property lines, creating a visual barrier from the abutting homes.

At the same time, the developer agreed to construct a host of public utilities that would be conveyed to the village. That includes a new water main along Rohlwing connecting to the village system, a rear yard drainage system to capture stormwater along the south property line, and a new storm sewer on the west side.

At its own cost, Nexstar will build the pickleball courts - with a 15-space parking lot and bathroom building - on a fenced-off, one-acre lot along Rohlwing, then lease it to the park district for a minimum of 50 years at $1 per year, according to the agreement. The media company will also put in an 8-foot-wide sidewalk along Rohlwing.

Along with the annexation, the village board zoned the property in the office transitional district, and issued a special use permit for the planned development. Nexstar paid the village a $30,715 annexation fee, records show.

The agreement calls for construction to start within two years, and the entire redevelopment to be complete in eight years.

But an attached timeline indicates it may take half as long: the utilities, pickleball courts, detention pond and first data center - a two-story, 169,000-square-foot easternmost building - would take 1.5 years.

The central two-story, 338,000-square-foot data center would be built a year later. And the two-story, 334,000-square-foot westernmost building would be 1.5 years after that.

Once a farm, the site has hosted the WGN transmitter since 1939.

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A rendering shows one of the three data center buildings proposed on the south end of WGN radio's transmitter site, which was annexed into Elk Grove Village Tuesday. Courtesy of Elk Grove Village
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