Christian TV channel has faith in the core

Posted by Don Fraser, The Standard

June 3, 2009

Grace TV to broadcast from downtown building. St. Catharines downtown revitalization efforts got another boost with confirmation a Christian ministry and broadcaster is moving into the former Royal Bank building.

World Impact Ministries—currently based at the Niagara Celebration Church on Scott Street—plans to renovate the St. Paul Street building into a street-front TV studio and headquarters. When the operation is fully ramped up, it could mean 70 or 80 new workers in the core.

On Monday, World Impact took over The Christian Channel, a digital channel that is aired nationally (in this area, on Cogeco channel 186 and on Star Choice/Star Direct channel 399). That 24-hour channel will be rebranded Grace TV and aired from the St. Paul Street building.

Nathan Thurber, World Impact’s business administrator, said the deal with Hughson Business Space Corp. has been signed and a studio should be operating by July 1 or earlier. The formal sale closing date is in late June.

Thurber said the move was prompted by a need for a proper studio. World Impact’s current location is not suitable. The former RBC building at the corner of Queen and St. Paul streets was constructed in 1968 after the old one was torn down. RBC moved to a new King Street location last year.

“With that whole window space on Queen Street, we’re going to set up a studio right in front of the windows, like CityTV does, with the road in the background,” Thurber said. And it’ll certainly have St. Catharines (shown) throughout Canada. We sort of like that feature from a Christian television and programming perspective … you’re right on the street,” he said. “It’s a very fresh new thing for Christian programming.”

World Impact was founded in 1976 and focuses on international Christian evangelical work. It employs 35 people locally. World Impact and Word of Life Church (now Niagara Celebration) were both started by Peter Youngren, who is president and CEO of The Christian Channel. Thurber said while World Impact is based at the church, both are separate entities.

World Impact has produced TV programs that have aired on channels like VisionTV and The Christian Channel and on U. S. channels.

Thurber said some office space at the new St. Paul Street location could also be leased. He declined to reveal the purchase price of the property.

Thurber praised the support the organization has received from the City of St. Catharines and Mayor Brian McMullan.

McMullan sent a letter to the CRTC supporting the TV station transfer, which was approved last month: “I think that was a great help,” Thurber said, adding CRTC approval for the channel has been a 17-month process. McMullan called the move “great news.”

“World Impact Ministries have been a welcome part of our community for many years,” he said. “To see them evolve and grow in this fashion is exciting for the faith community … and also for the downtown and the city as a whole. My understanding is they’re going to have some visibility from the street in terms of some of their TV telecast and productions. I think that’ll create some excitement and interesting dynamic at that corner,” McMullan said.

“It’s a key corner, a central corner in our downtown core.”