LET'S HOPE THERE aren't any hoops fans in the KYW-TV newsroom - or the engineering department.

While the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game is steaming up on the station tonight, the "Eyewitness News" team will be totally distracted and absorbed. They'll be hustling themselves, their work and their personal effects across town from their old court at 5th and Market to a remarkably advanced, new broadcast arena at 16th and Hamilton streets, just up the block from the Daily News.

"We'll throw the switch at 11 p.m., or whenever the game is over, and introduce viewers to our new home and our first high-definition newscast," said Michael Colleran, president and general manager of KYW-TV3 and sister station, CW-57 (aka WPSG), which also is relocating to the site. "This just seemed like a good night to do it."

KYW and CW's fresh, 120,000-square-foot digs are the first in town - and one of the first broadcast plants in the country - to be built entirely new for the high-definition, digital-TV medium taking over the broadcast world. Completed in just a year, with most of the complex wiring work done by KYW's own engineering staff, the project cost, allowed Colleran, "tens of millions . . . we don't even like to share the actual figure with [CBS] corporate."

Here's a sneak peek at the new facility:

Who's On First

You might recall that KYW was the very first station in town to telecast a program in high definition - auspiciously, a launch of the Space Shuttle on Oct. 29, 1998.

You might recall that KYW was the very first station in town to telecast a program in high definition - auspiciously, a launch of the Space Shuttle on Oct. 29, 1998.

Later, ABC outlet WPVI-TV 6 and then Fox 29 stole some thunder as the city's first and second stations to launch local-news shows in HD.

Now KYW-3 and CW-57 are reclaiming bragging rights. "Eyewitness News" will be the "first in Philadelphia" to capture news in the field with HD camcorders, bringing back stories with a wide-screen, higher-resolution perspective optimized for the HD sets already in "about 20 percent of area homes," estimated director of broadcast operations Rich Paleski.

On old-school sets, viewers will see the "center cut" of the same camera shot, he said, reformatted for standard definition.

Also a first: both Channels 3 and 57 have abandoned the use of videotape in the new plant. The Sony portable cameras record on professional-grade Blu-Ray discs, and all content at the station is stored on computer servers. Multiple reporters and editors will now be able to access and weigh in simultaneously on the stored material.

"This is the the next generation of electronic news - the biggest leap in technology since the 1970s, when reporters first began reporting live on location from the field," said vice president and news director Susan Schiller.

We're Talking Big

Occupying the entire sixth floor of 1500 Spring Garden Street - the block-long former Smith Kline & French laboratories - the KYW-3/CW-57 broadcast facility is so large "we get lost walking around here," said Vice President of Public Affairs Joanne Calabria. It took more than an hour for this reporter to soak it all in, including the two enormous studios, a snazzy newsroom ("finally big enough for everyone to have their own desk," noted Paleski) plus multiple control rooms, news-editing stations, dressing rooms and makeup areas for the talent, a green room for guests, plus two huge, frigidly air-conditioned back rooms filled with rack upon rack of high-tech gear.

As you can see in an online tour hosted by Ukee Washington (at www.cbs3.com), many spaces in the building look glossy enough to show off on TV. GM Colleran says that's intentional, calling the entire facility "a television studio without walls."

Visiting groups are likely to gather in the Grand Hall. Its translucent back wall offers an etched-in-glass replica of the test pattern that viewers would see, off hours, when tuning in our town's original Channel 3. That was W3XE, which went on the air experimentally in 1932, operating out of the Philco plant at C and Tioga streets.

One novel location you'll be seeing lots on screen is the newly built weather deck, a balcony hanging off the south side of the building. Kathy Orr and her camera operator will venture out there to taste the temp and moisture, with a view of Center City high-rises looming in the background.

And. if you're cruising through Center City, it will be pretty easy to spot the broadcasters' new quarters, thanks to the well-lit, landmark-size channel logos glowing on the side of the building. Despite the proximity to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and museum district, the signage was approved without a fuss by the city or the Art Commission, said Colleran, as part of a "concessions" package to keep the high-profile stations and 320 employees in Center City. Sites also considered were at the Navy Yard, at 15th and Arch and in Bala Cynwyd.

"We didn't ask for anything," the exec claimed, "but the city has taken it upon itself to be very cooperative, to cut through the red tape."