‘The Loft’, Amarillo First Baptist Church Student Ministry Addition

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The idea was first mooted at least a dozen years ago. First Baptist Church student facilities were becoming cramped and becoming increasingly cramped. There had been no new educational space at the church since 1973.

But there were other priorities, including the master plan in 2010, a long series of connected lighted arcades, a commons, a water fountain and covered walkways which have since become a popular photo backdrop for discounts diplomas and engagements.

“So we were already thinking about it,” said Dr. Howard Batson, the church’s pastor since 1995. “The question eventually became – ‘which piece is next?’ We believe this will meet the needs of our church and the town of Amarillo in many ways.

Dr. Howard Batson has served as pastor of First Baptist Church since 1995.

It will be called “The Loft”, larger than any loft most would recognize. It will be a four-story, 77,000 square foot structure in the 1300 block of Harrison Street. The Loft will be connected to the Park Place Towers retirement community and will have an elevated covered walkway – a 115-foot-long, 16-foot-wide “skybridge” – above Harrison to connect to the western part of the main church.

The estimated $39 million structure, with a sparkling glass facade, will take up much of the church’s west parking lot. With bids closing in late June, construction is expected to begin in late summer or early fall.

Construction of the facility is expected to begin in late summer and early fall with a completion timeframe of approximately two years.

What is The Loft? Who is it for? What could be its impact?

“It will help the next generation rediscover downtown,” Batson said. “It’s not just built for First Baptist Church students. This is built for our community. It’s a safe place where students can build community and make intergenerational connections. We think it’s the next big thing downtown.

The primary target demographic is middle and high school students, as well as a separate first-floor space for students, for whom it will be more than the traditional Sunday and Wednesday gatherings. This ministry has outgrown the fourth floor of the church and parts of the adjacent Family Life Center.

The Loft will have open spaces with sofas and chairs, education rooms, an open worship area that can accommodate approximately 325 people, sports courts, a fully equipped kitchen and an outdoor artificial turf area for volleyball. ball and other activities which includes a covered area for grilling. There is also a two-level parking garage for 150 vehicles, 200 spaces including outdoor parking.

“The reality is that we need a new student ministry center to reach more students for Christ,” Batson said, “and we believe student ministry needs to go beyond a Sunday schedule and Wednesday We want to be the preferred meeting place for students.

The $39 million structure will be a significant addition to the downtown footprint. "The Loft will be a downtown treasure for years to come as we work together to make Downtown a destination neighborhood to live, work, play, learn and love."

“The students are going to hang out somewhere. Don’t we need to know where they hang out and what values ​​are taught where they hang out? They need a safe place to relax. That’s a good word – ‘sure.’

“Students face many more temptations than my generation did. If we don’t invest in the next generation, not just in First Baptist but in the church as a whole, then we’re going to see a very different culture.

Batson gave examples of The Loft’s secondary use as a project group meeting of chemistry students or as a physics teachers’ meeting with students a few afternoons a week. The Loft could be a venue to host sports banquets for local high schools in smaller sports like cross country/track, golf and tennis.

‘Not just a First Baptist thing’

“I don’t want it to be just a First Baptist Church thing,” said student minister Bradley Maybin. “I want to open it up to a broader spectrum beyond First Baptist – banquets, FCA, Young Life. It’s really for all students because you never know what connection you might make with them.

“The First Presbyterian Church has a new youth center, and we want to partner with them. Our goal is to reach students with the gospel and for them to pursue Christ. way possible. We have a lot of work to do to reach everyone. We don’t want to limit this to just First Baptist students.

With a walkway connecting to nearby Park Central Towers, the Loft is expected to be intergenerational with seniors using the facility for exercise classes, Bible studies or other group gatherings, and even partnering with students. on projects such as preparing Christmas gift bags for the prison ministry of the church. .

“It will be a nice building to have for some of our activities subject to church use,” said Steve Dalrymple, president and CEO of Baptist Community Services, which owns and operates the Park Place complex.

“Our board sees this project as even more interconnected with the church. We are separate entities and separate campuses, but this will allow us to intertwine and that will be very positive.

"The Loft," Student Ministry Building at First Baptist Church, will be 77,000 square feet over four floors of indoor space for education, worship, ministry, missions and parking. "This will help the next generation rediscover downtown," said FBC pastor Dr. Howard Batson.

Of the four major downtown churches – Christ Central Church, Polk Street United Methodist Church, First Presbyterian Church and First Baptist Church – The Loft will be the last of the church expansions.

“One of the cool things about Amarillo is that downtown churches are engaged downtown,” Batson said. “There is no escape to the suburbs. We revitalize. A lot of churches say, ‘Hey, people have changed. Let’s change too. We say, ‘No, we’re going to invite people from downtown. We will stay and give people something to come to.’ »

Beth Duke, executive director of Center City of Amarillo, Inc., said Amarillo’s historic and oldest churches lend a distinctive touch to the look of downtown.

“Downtown churches anchor our downtown with their architecture, stories and congregations,” Duke said. “Just as the original First Baptist Church building speaks of the past, The Loft speaks of the future.

“The Loft will be a downtown treasure for years to come as we work together to make Downtown a destination neighborhood to live, work, play, learn and love.”

Construction, which will likely begin later in the summer or early fall, is expected to take about two years. The Loft could open in the final months of 2024. The $39 million project was approved by the church on September 19, 2021 with $15.8 million in donations and pledges. Since then, pledges and amounts have nearly doubled to just under $30 million.

“I really think this is the next big thing for downtown and I say that boldly,” Batson said. “To revitalize an urban area, you need young people. You must have this next generation. Wouldn’t it be nice if the students were hanging out downtown and the next thing you know they have a loft?

“So we don’t just see this as a First Baptist Church Amarillo project. We see it as an Amarillo project, and specifically a downtown Amarillo project.

By the numbers

Construction will begin this summer on The Loft, the student ministry building of First Baptist Church on Harrison Street. He will understand :

· 77,000 square feet over four floors of indoor space for education, worship, missions and ministry.

· An artificial turf outdoor recreation area half the length of a football field – 150 feet by 54 feet – for outdoor activities and picnics.

· A 150-space parking garage with an additional 50 outdoor parking spaces.

· A sky bridge that will connect The Loft and Park Central to the main church which is 115 feet long and 16 feet wide above Harrison Street.

· The main worship hall will accommodate approximately 325 people.

· Two kitchens – indoor and outdoor – and three elevators.

· Frees up 20,000 square feet formerly used by students in the main church.

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