It was around 40 years ago that The Kansas City Star unveiled its then-state-of-the-art Hoe presses.
State of the art they are no more.
Among the oldest presses in the country, only the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the newspaper’s machinists and pressmen have held them together.
Nowadays most parts have to be made by hand in the newspaper’s machine shop. Employees push the newsprint to the presses on a dolly.
All of that will change by the middle of next year when The Star’s new, $199 million production facility opens for business.
The fully automated, glass-enclosed printing plant occupies two full city blocks northeast of the newspaper’s headquarters, rising from four stories on its south end to the equivalent of eight stories on its north end.
Four 60-foot-tall, computerized presses will create a cleaner, crisper-looking newspaper with enhanced color capabilities. They also will give The Star greater flexibility in how the newspaper is packaged and distributed.
Groundbreaking for the massive, 424,000-square-foot structure took place in May 2003. The building sits just south of the downtown loop, overlooking the site of the planned downtown arena and entertainment district to the northwest.
The building will accommodate The Star’s 550 print workers. The news side of the operation will remain in The Star’s nearly century-old building at 18th Street and Grand Boulevard.
Here are some statistics about the new facility:
■ To support its weight, 570 30-inch pilings were driven 65 feet into bedrock.
■ The building contains 7.8 million pounds of structural steel, 500,000 pounds of sheet metal and ductwork, 20,900 cubic yards of concrete and about four acres of glass.
■ The area containing the presses is 377.7 feet long. To help the presses run efficiently, it will be maintained at a constant temperature of 72 to 75 degrees and 40 percent to 45 percent humidity.
■ The four German-manufactured KBA Commander presses will have the capacity to run 80 pages of up to six sections in a single press run, compared with 72 pages in four sections currently. The presses will be capable of producing 40 four-color pages and 16 pages of spot color, versus 16 four-color pages now.
■ The packaging and distribution area takes up 80,000 square feet.
■ There are 11 distribution docks and truck aprons, four receiving docks and four recycling docks.
■ The automatic roll storage and retrieval system consists of about 5,300 storage bays, rising to a height of 80 feet. The bays can store from 10 to 15 days worth of paper.
The facility also will house a small museum and retail store featuring the newspaper’s products. The museum will feature an exhibit of early printing press artifacts and a history of The Star.