Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Sun-Times Production Plant Becoming a Reality

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Sun-Times Production Plant Becoming a Reality

Article excerpt

After numerous false starts, the Chicago Sun-Times is now building the $100 million production plant that will bring the biggest letterpress-printed newspaper into the offset era.

Located on Chicago's near South Side at the former site of an old Sears warehouse, the plant is being constructed on a fast-track basis to allow for quicker installation of six new double-width Goss Graphic Systems Newsliner color offset presses, and for completion of the entire production center before the end of 1999.

The fast pace contrasts with the delay in press modernization that lingered over more than 15 years and three owners -- and relegated the tabloid to a fading second place in advertising share as its letterpress color reproduction looked increasingly sickly compared with the market-leading Chicago Tribune and snappy suburban competitors such as the Daily Herald in Arlington Heights and the Copley Chicago Newspapers group.

New presses were an immediate priority when Hollinger International in 1994 bought the Sun-Times from an investment firm whose debt had prevented any serious investment in the paper, Hollinger president E David Radler said at the March 27 groundbreaking ceremony presided over by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

"We knew from the moment we bought the Sun-Times in 1994 that we had to go offset as soon as we got in the door. This newspaper cannot be competitive unless it goes offset," said Radler, who is also the newspaper's publisher.

Still, the groundbreaking came almost exactly four years after Hollinger took over, a delay attributable to haggling with the city over tax abatements -- and, in small part, to the design changes in the production plant itself.

"This project began as one configuration concept and ended as something completely different," said Rick Rogers, director of the newspaper group for McClier Corp., the Chicago-based firm designing and building the project. "This is not a configuration you would just pull out of the drawer.

"Hollinger had a little more of a European view of things and willingness to look at more options," Rogers added.

Indeed, Hollinger's stamp on the design is unmistakable.

Like the group's Pacific Press plant in Vancouver, B.C., the Sun-Times facility will line up the six Newsliner presses in a press hall that runs more than 500 feet, with room for a seventh press. "It gives you a lot of flexibility in webbing," said Jim Kistler, McClier's architect on the project.

On the opposite side of the press hall, another hall about 350 feet long is being built to accommodate a 36-couple Goss Universal 70, a single-wide, two-around "semicommercial" press that the Sun-Times plans to install in the future. …

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