EAU CLAIRE, Wis. - Forget the wall with Mexico, Eau Claire, Wisconsin has suffered its own border intrusion.
Each football Sunday, Paul Allen’s voice of the Vikings wafts across the Chippewa Valley at 880 AM.
“All good fun,” says sports director Pete Knutson, dressed in his Vikings gear.
Knutson’s station, WMEQ - licensed in Menomonie and broadcasting from Eau Claire – joined the Vikings radio network seven years ago.
Picking up the Vikings made good business sense, according to MWEQ’s general manager Rick Hencley. “As the Twin Cities continues to grow into Wisconsin and St. Croix County, and closer, there's a lot of Vikings fans - and it gets bigger all the time,” said Hencley.
It’s all made for a split personality within the iHeartRadio Media building, home base for MWEQ and several other radio stations, three of which broadcast Packers’ games.
“I allow the Vikings in the building, it makes me a little week in the knees,” laughs Dave DeVille, WMEQ’s senior vice president of programing and a diehard Packers fan.
The Vikings have actually found homes at four Wisconsin Radio stations, in Eau Claire, La Crosse, Rice Lake and Hayward.
While the Packer's lone Minnesota-based outlet is in Stillwater.
AM 1220 KLBB has been transmitting the Packers signal across the metro for 15 years.
Station owner Dan Smith moved the broadcast from the former WIXK in New Richmond, which his family used to own, but only, he says, after gaining the needed permission under NFL rules from the Vikings.
Packers games have becomes the station’s biggest draw.
“There's a huge astronomical bump when the Packers are on,” Smith says.
Yet station managers on both sides of the state line say their border-hopping programming can be a sensitive subject with advertisers.
“Some people are like, “I can't advertise on the Packers,” and I'm like, “There's a lot of money over there in Wisconsin and all the Packer fans,” says Brad Clark, KLBB’s general manager.
Evening a losing performance can bump up tune-in by opposing fans – especially during post game call-ins.
“It's that schadenfreude,” says Knutson. “You got to love the suffering of the fans you don't like.”