Plant City’s First Baptist Church will start construction on its new campus in 2016.
After 150 years, Plant City’s First Baptist Church has grown from its original congregation. Packed parking lots, a sanctuary bursting at the seams and busy classrooms are the norm on any given Sunday, and the church is now 250 people over its capacity.
Luckily, there’s a solution: First Baptist will be building a new sanctuary in 2016 on property it owns in south Plant City.
The church’s current location is on Palmer Street, in the heart of Historic Downtown Plant City. The new location is at 3309 James L. Redman Parkway.
Despite the changes that the church will undergo, Senior Pastor Brian Stowe is happy to be leading the congregation three miles across town.
“For future generations to grow, and we hope and pray to be effective, we realized we’d have to make several decisions,” Stowe says. “One of those is to relocate.”
THE 10-YEAR PLAN
Ten years and two pastors ago, church leaders realized that the fast-growing campus had nowhere to expand in downtown Plant City.
The church has 4,000 members, but many are not present at every service. On Sundays the church has around 1,500 people attend services, 250 of which are children, and 150 are students from sixth to 12th grade. With only 1,250 seats the church is past maximum capacity and is continuing to grow.
After much deliberation, First Baptist decided to set its flag on James L. Redman Parkway. Today, there is an outsized blueprint draped along the church’s white office walls. It symbolizes phase one of the new campus.
Phase one of First Baptist’s new campus is the largest of three phases.
The church hired Myrick Gurosky & Associates, a Birmingham, Alabama-based design-build firm.
The first phase will cost $17,500,000 and will create around 130 jobs.
“As far as churches go, this one definitely falls on the larger end,” Donald Myrick, senior project manager, says.
Parking is one of the bigger issues. With over 1,000 people attending on Sundays, downtown’s limited parking can’t keep up. The church had to purchase another parking area across the railroad tracks.
The new campus will have an extensive parking with room to grow.
While the current location of the church is small and charming, the new location will be 60,000 square feet.
Phase one of the new campus also includes a large commons area and a two-story slide for the children’s area.
The official plans for phase two and three are still not set in stone, but the last two phases will include the creation of larger youth building and an administration building.
The completion of the new campus will take around 15 months.
“We’d love to break ground in January but it’s a process,” Stowe says. “We don’t know exactly when it will happen.”
The current building will be used for as long as it’s needed, but the church is planning to sell it once it officially relocates.
Abby Baker is a journalism student at Hillsborough Community College and an intern for the Plant City Times & Observer.