70th Anniversary Moments – Donn Wuycik

This year commemorates the 70th anniversary of when Beaver County’s first radio station, WBVP, was heard over the airwaves for the the first time on May 25, 1948.  To mark the historical event, each week, another “70th Anniversary Moment” will be showcased on the airwaves and published on the station’s online feeds.​

Donn Wuycik (right) holding a video camera on his shoulder. Beaver County Times File Photo.

If you mention the topics of basketball or broadcasting in Ambridge, one name comes to mind quite easy for many of the town’s residents, Wuycik.  Walter and Louise Wuycik raised  three children, including two boys who became quite well known in their home town, and throughout the area for their achievements.  The elder son, Dennis, was a whiz on the basketball court leading the Ambridge Bridgers to an undefeated state championship season in 1967.  Dennis Wuycik would later on have successful career at North Carolina and with several A.B.A. professional basketball teams.  The younger of the two boys, Donn was much more comfortable taking in a game from the sidelines and recording the contest with video equipment.  The fact is, Donn Wuycik was so accomplished in his skills to gather, edit and produce videos that he was hired on as one of the original field reporters for ESPN when it started up in the early 1980’s.   By all accounts, Donn Wuycik’s video work was in high demand as he was soon traveling all over the United States to provide footage for several major cable networks.

Scott Tady from the Beaver County Times published this recap of Wuycik’s early video career in an article released in December, 2014 following Donn Wuycik’s passing at age 60. After graduating in 1972 from Ambridge Area High School, Wuycik worked a number of jobs, including as a fitter for Dravo Corp., a cable installer, an ambulance driver in Aliquippa and police chief for South Heights.

In the late 1970s, Wuycik invested much of his life savings to buy TV camera equipment, launching a freelance news gathering business. Learning of an upstart sports cable network in Bristol, Conn., he auditioned with a tape he’d made of Beaver County’s annual World Championship Snow Shovel Riding Contest. That network, ESPN, hired him to provide its “Sports Center” program with taped highlights of major Pittsburgh sporting events and later for West Coast games. Camera work Wuycik did also appeared on CNN, the BBC and for ABC’s “World News Tonight with Peter Jennings.”

Donn Wuycik pictured in the 1990’s. Beaver County Times file Photo.

Donn Wuycik, with the support of his family,  purchased WMBA at the young age of 32 in a deal that was finalized in 1986.    His company was called Donn Communications, and Donn Wuycik ran WMBA with the same tenacity and competitiveness as his brother demonstrated two decades earlier on the hardwood floors of area high school basketball courts.  He immediately brought about many changes to WMBA that others might not have even attempted, including constructing two new four hundred foot broadcast towers and installing new transmitting equipment so the station could be approved for night time broadcasting, which became a reality in 1988.  Donn Wuycik also moved the studio and offices for WMBA from the old Economy section of town on 14th Street to a nice, newly remodeled and more visible building on Merchant Street in Ambridge. 

Much like the way he lived his own life, Donn Wuycik put  more bravado into what WMBA was broadcasting.  It wasn’t uncommon in that era for the Ambridge station to carry three or four high school football games in a single weekend, including ones from far away as North Hills high school near Pittsburgh.  He  took his politics seriously as well.  Under Donn Wuycik’s leadership, WMBA would have a half dozen reporters on the streets and at various campaign headquarters on election nights in Beaver County.  Nobody was going to out do Donn Wuycik.  He worked hard and played even harder. He is best remembered for a quote of his that appeared on the Beaver County Boom Tee Shirts a couple years ago “It’s Gonna be big, and you’re gonna want to be there!”

“70th Anniversary Moments” is presented by  Abbey Carpet and Floor,  Albert’s Heating, Cooling and Plumbing,  Aliquippa Giant Eagle, The Beaver Falls Municipal Authority, Beaver Valley Auto Mall, Beaver Valley Sheet Metal, Castlebrook Development, The Community College Of Beaver County,  Farmers Building and Savings Bank, Freedom United Federal Credit Union, Hank’s Frozen Custard and Mexican food, The Health Huts, Kitchen City, Laughlin Insurance Agency,  Rochester Manor and Villa and Young’s Jewelry and Coins.