"Hold on, please," the deep voice urged as the Denver International Airport train picked up speed on its way to the concourses Sunday.
Alan Roach, the man behind that voice, did hold on: Last week, airport officials announced that he would be keeping his gig as one of the voices of "Train Call," the public-art piece created by sound artist Jim Green that provides not just the music of the train, but all those bossy announcements.
When the airport opened more than two decades ago, the voices of "Train Call" belonged to Reynelda Muse, Denver's first African-American anchor, and radio personality Pete Smythe. But then Muse moved out of town and Smythe moved on to that big microphone in the sky, and in 2007, KUSA anchor Adele Arakawa and Roach, who'd just left his gig as announcer for the Colorado Rockies to a similar spot with the Denver Broncos, replaced them.
Last year, after Arakawa, too, moved out of town, the airport decided to host a contest to find the next voices for "Train Call"; after all, Roach had already given up his Broncos post to become announcer with the Vikings in his home state of Minnesota. So the airport solicited candidates, and sixty broadcasting professionals (or close enough) nominated themselves; a panel of judges reduced that roster to ten — five women and five men — and then threw the final vote to the public. There was just one problem: Roach still lives in Colorado, the state he moved to almost three decades ago, and continues to work here for other local sports teams and businesses.
He fought not to be silenced, throwing his hat back in the ring and making the cut for the finals. But he faced more challenges then: He was competing against hometown broadcasters while he was traveling to gigs at the Pro Bowl, the Super Bowl, the Olympics.
He wasn't sure he'd be able to pull it off, since he was gone for the last month of the competition. "I followed it a little bit," he says. "I knew that every day, every one of the TV personalities was going to be on the air asking for votes. ... There was only so much I could do from South Korea."
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Some of those personalities traveled to the airport, where they held up signs, handed out candy and asked for votes. "I would have felt compelled to do the same," Roach admits. But he didn't need to. When the 75,000 votes were tabulated, it turned out that he'd kept his voice.
Roach was back in Colorado in time to get the good news from airport communications vice president Stacy Stegman. Sometime in the next few weeks, he and Kim Christiansen, the longtime KUSA anchor who's taking Arakawa's slot, will go into a studio to record new announcements.
The content of those messages hasn't been determined, but "I assume there will be some changes," Roach says. The airport has already mentioned that the infamous "YOU are delaying the departure of the train" may be booted, and there could be other tweaks. As he was heading out of town over a month ago for the first of his three high-profile gigs, Roach noticed that he was warning people to "hold on" about six times in a row.
And hold on he did. "I'm just thrilled to be able to do this. It's even more of an honor now than it was the first time around," Roach says. "This time around, I know it wasn't just Jim Green and the art project. It's heartwarming. It makes me feel very good, makes me feel validated."