DULUTH — Lovers of Ely's WELY radio station have at least the summer to enjoy its popular programming — its owner has given it a three-month extension while potential offers are explored.
The station, long a downtown fixture for Ely residents, Boundary Waters paddlers and tourists, was set to shut down June 1. Its owner, the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, has been losing money on the station for years, it said.
Bois Forte Chair Cathy Chavers said in a news release Friday that "numerous interested parties" were inquiring about a purchase.
"Let's just hope a buyer steps up to the plate and saves the station," Chavers said. "Bois Forte has done all it can to keep the station alive, but now it's time for someone else to keep WELY — The End of the Road Radio — on the airwaves."
Ely Mayor Roger Skraba, who said in early May he intended to save the station, said Friday he'd taken several calls from both private and nonprofit potential buyers, who he directed to Bois Forte.
"I'm pretty confident something is going to happen," he said. "What's happening now is the best-case scenario."
Skraba said he's happy Bois Forte "sees (the station's) value and is committed to operating it" while it looks for a buyer.
If one isn't found, the station will close Sept. 1.
WELY first began broadcasting in 1954. Financial problems forced a closure in 1987, until CBS journalist Charles Kuralt, known for his "On the Road" program, bought the station in 1995. He operated it until his death in 1997. Bois Forte bought WELY in 2005.
The station employs a full-time general manager and eight part-time workers.
Aside from music and emergency messages, WELY is the local source of Minnesota Twins baseball and Vikings football, regional news and area high school sports. Its reach extends across the upper Arrowhead.