KCEN-TV will be packing up its Bruceville-Eddy television station and moving to downtown Temple.
The local NBC affiliate — the area’s first television station that began broadcasting on Nov. 1, 1953 — purchased a portion of the former First Baptist Church complex on Dec. 31 and hopes to have a new state-of-the-art studio operational by the end of the year.
“We really believe that there would be no better home for KCEN than the city of Temple,” General Manager Gayle Kiger said Monday.
The new studio could enhance a development being planned for the remainder of the church property as Temple city officials are working to revitalize downtown.
Kiger said having a strong, visible presence in Bell County is important. KCEN-TV — started by the late Killeen Daily Herald and Temple Daily Telegram publisher Frank S. Mayborn — is the only station licensed to the city of Temple and serves 330,000 households in the Temple, Waco, Killeen and Bryan-College Station viewing area. The station was sold in 2009 and is now owned by Tegna.
“I think the fastest-growing and largest county in the viewing area should have a television station based there so this will give us that opportunity,” Kiger said.
In January 2010, an early morning fire gutted a portion of the First Baptist sanctuary. The building has remained vacant since and the congregation relocated to West Temple.
“I think we will take a vacant building that was just sitting idle in downtown and we will breathe some new life into it,” Kiger said.
He said the station’s current facilities are aging and they need the additional space to accommodate the growing staff.
“We had to make a decision,” Kiger said. “Do we add on and improve existing facilities? Or do we take a look at relocating to new location? We looked at building a brand new building, but this was much quicker. We have been running out of space for a good, long while.”
Kiger said the last time their current station had a considerable renovation was in the 1970s when they built an addition to increase the square footage.
“We made the decision to relocate (to Temple) because the existing facilities there are going to allow us to almost double our square footage,” Kiger said. “We really think that it will be a really positive addition to the downtown core area.”
Kiger said they hope to move in by the end of the year after finishing significant renovations to the church building.
“We are going to be investing several million dollars into the facilities with upgrades and equipment,” he said. “So we are really excited about that.”
Lloyd Thomas, president of the Aldrich-Thomas Group Realtors in Temple, represented KCEN on the acquisition as their broker and said the station inquired about the property more than a year ago.
Thomas said KCEN is purchasing everything that is along Third Street as well as a portion of the grass area where the First Baptist Church’s former fellowship hall and offices were located.
“They are purchasing the old 7-Eleven building, the children’s building that has the gymnasium inside, and they are purchasing the old grocery store, meat locker, Texas Bank and Trust and First Baptist Church Senior’s Activities Building,” Thomas said.
“They are going to be bringing 30 to 40 employees to downtown Temple from Bruceville -Eddy and I think that’s a shot in the arm for downtown Temple,” Thomas said.
Thomas said the sale was not made through his Realtor group but another entity.
“At the same time, I was the buyer and developer of the church property from the church,” Thomas said. “I did not represent the church in this acquisition I represented myself and my entity.”
Thomas said he would not to disclose the purchasing price of the property.
“I am not putting any prices on the table,” he said.
Thomas said KCEN’s purchase will give him the opportunity to piggyback off their relocation.
“My plans are a work in progress,” Thomas said. “But I want to create a business park to serve downtown Temple.”
Kiger said they plan to turn the gymnasium into the studio because of the height of the ceiling and the square footage.
“This property fit our needs quite well,” Kiger said. “The most important need for the station is a suitable studio.”
Kiger said KCEN plans to sell their current building.
“We haven’t finalized the timing on that but eventually we plan to sell it,” he said. “The media landscape is changing at break-neck speeds so this will just be a nice opportunity for use to upgrade almost everything we do,” Kiger said.