The new campus of First Baptist Church of Plant City is expected to be completed in December 2017 or January 2018, with a grand opening contingent on completion.
Last April, about 800 members of First Baptist Church of Plant City gathered for the groundbreaking of the church’s new campus. With every shovel full of ceremonial dirt, Senior Pastor Brian Stowe and members of the church’s Promise Land Committee celebrated an event 12 years in the making.
The new church, located at 3309 James L. Redman Parkway in Plant City, is scheduled to be completed by December 2017. The church anticipates that it will be move-in ready by January 2018.
“The walls have started to go up,” Stowe said. “I get a video of the construction about once a week or every two weeks. We originally thought it would take 15 months, but it will likely be closer to 20 months.”
The church has outgrown its current home at 503 N. Palmer St. With close to 4,500 registered members — including a couple hundred new members that joined in 2016 — the church sees an average of 1,500 people on campus for Sunday morning services and related activities.
“There’s a difference between membership and attendance,” Stowe said. “But we’ve gone over that 1,500 number of late.”
Stowe said the church’s youngest group — those 18 and under — currently make up between 400 to 500 members, and is rapidly expanding.
“We’ve had an uptick on the younger families as of late, since adding modern services,” he said.
With a growing congregation in a growing town, Stowe and his fellow leaders at First Baptist Plant City have aimed to create a new facility that will accommodate members while fitting in with the surrounding community. The church hired Myrick Gurosky & Associates, a design-build firm based out of Alabama, for the project.
“Of late there’s been a lot more conversation and some anticipation,” Stowe said. “That excitement is beginning to pick up.”
With a total of 60,000 square feet at the church’s new campus, the facility on James L. Redman Parkway will have 14,000 square feet on each floor of the building, including the children’s ministry, as well as 32,000 square feet allotted for the church’s new sanctuary and a commons area to be used for socializing and fellowship.
“The commons area is a big atrium with sofas,” Stowe said. “It’s just a place for people to sit down and talk with one another.”
The church’s sanctuary will sit between 1,500 to 1,800. Unlike the current sanctuary which has balcony seating, the new sanctuary ,will have stadium seating toward the back.
Since breaking ground in April, the church has faced some delays with the new campus.
“Basically we had to get in line and wait,” Stowe said. “It’s kind of like a complex equation.”
The church had to wait for the larger concrete walls that make up part of the exterior of the building to be delivered, which took longer than expected due to the increase in construction in Florida. With the main walls up, work on the church’s roof began in December 2016.
“The dry weather has been a help,” Stowe said. “The main walls went up before Thanksgiving. They were brought in by truck and moved into place by a crane. It’s like a big puzzle, how they pieced it together. Once the roof is done, the work will then take place inside.”
Floor work will be done after the roof and walls are fully completed, as there was concern that the floor could crack if done first.
The finishing touches for the parking lot are also being completed. While the church’s current facility on Palmer Street uses multiple parking lots and street parking, the new facility will have a large, semi-circle parking lot.
“People won’t have to cross the street to get to church again,” Stowe said.
Landscaping improvements also have been made to the area. The church will hire a landscape contractor to plant 250 trees and 3,000 bushes around the area. Two entrances will lead into the parking lot, and officers from the Plant City Police Department will direct traffic on Sundays.
Construction was also partially delayed by the need to obtain permits.
“We had to get permits from the City of Plant City, the county and the state,” Stowe said. “The City was the most cooperative. The City was for us. They want to see the project go (forward) and they’ve been very helpful through it.”
The church had to obtain a building permit from the City, as well as a water permit since the property at 3309 James L. Redman Parkway will use City water.
The first phase of construction, which includes the parking lot, surrounding shrubbery, children’s ministry and sanctuary, cost about $17 million, Stowe said. The second phase will include the construction of an educational building that will be built in addition to the main worship center. Cost and the timeline of the educational facility, Stowe said, will be dependent on funds.
“The master plan has multiple phases,” he said. “We’re going to play it by ear and determine the needs of the church as it progresses. We’ll look at the greater need as it comes along.”
2017, he said, will be another big year of changes for the church.
“We’ve made some pretty big changes over the last year,” he said, mentioning the church’s new modern services. “We’re going to make sure we have those things in place, and focus on one major change at a time.”
The date of the grand opening of the church’s new facility will be contingent on completion.
Contact Emily Topper at [email protected].