GALLIPOLIS — The construction of the new First Baptist Church/Ohio Valley Christian School Activity Center has truly been a labor of love for those members of the church and the school who are preparing to open the doors of the state-of-the-art facility this spring to the community that they serve.
The $1.6 million, 16,500 square-foot addition to First Baptist Church and the school that it sponsors is set to open in May and will house not only a very large youth room, a storage room and classrooms for the use of the church and school, but also a large gymnasium complete with cross-court volleyball and basketball practice surfaces, adjustable basketball goals, locker rooms, a weight room and a large concession stand.
In addition, the locker rooms and public restrooms in the new building will be completely accessible during Ohio Valley Christian School (OVCS) soccer games, allowing for a better experience for both players and spectators.
According to First Baptist Church Senior Pastor Alvis Pollard, the construction of the school/church activity center completes “phase two” of their expansion — with “phase one” being the 32,000 square-foot facility located at 1,100 Fourth Avenue that currently houses the school and church.
Pollard reported that he and other officials with the church/school are waiting with great anticipation for the opening of the facility on their 20-acre site.
“We do look forward to the public getting to use the building,” Pollard said. “People may want to come in in the winter time and walk and we’ll have some open gym times for young people, as well as adults.
“We are a ministry to the tri-county area, and we are really looking forward to the people of the tri-county area enjoying this facility,” he added.
Pollard reported that the completion of the new addition really completes the move of both the OVCS high school and church from their former location at Third Avenue and Locust Street in Gallipolis — the building that now houses Elizabeth Chapel Church.
According to Patrick O’Donnell, the school’s chief administrator, discussions surrounding the new activity center really did began in earnest approximately four years ago when the building at Third and Locust was sold to Elizabeth Chapel.
“This had been in the plan for a very long time, but we felt that the time was right to go ahead and build this new facility,” O’Donnell said. “We were outgrowing the older facility. We had need for additional Sunday school space with the church, the school was growing — we needed space for the school — and, so, we just felt like that the Lord was leading us to a place where we were ready to build.”
Since their move to the new building at 1,100 Fourth Avenue in Gallipolis, O’Donnell reported that the Wednesday night Awana youth organization through the church, as well as the school’s daily physical education classes have had to be transported to the gymnasium at the Third Avenue and Locust Street building.
“It was just getting very inconvenient to have a split campus,” O’Donnell said.
According to Ed Swisher, a long-time member of the church who chairs the 15-member activity center building committee, discussions surrounding the new building really began in May 2010, and after a bit of searching, Brentwood Builders of Cedarville, Ohio, was chosen as the right company for both the design and construction of the new building.
“What we went with is what is called the ‘design-building process,’ we didn’t go with the traditional method where we go out and hire architects, do all the planning and then hire contractors,” Swisher said. “We wanted someone that would turn-key and work with us so that we have fewer problems. Through that process, we picked Brentwood, probably, within a year and half after we got started.”
Construction on the activity center began in August of last year, and with expected completion in May, the church and school officials reported that they hope to have an open house and dedication ceremony for the new building in the latter part of May.
The senior pastor further reported that while any plans for future expansion is not on the books for now, the activity center has been designed for a possible “phase three” to allow for additional growth in the future.
“The ‘phase two’ building is designed for a ‘phase three’ addition on the Ohio Avenue side,” Pollard said. “So, that’s basically for our future needs — our expansion. We’d like to pay off the existing building first, but hopefully, with God’s timing, it should be perfect.”
The students of OVCS, who not only hail from the First Baptist Church, but also from churches throughout the tri-county, are more than excited to see the new addition completed, according to O’Donnell, and he is hopeful that this facility will attract more athletes to their already very successful athletic program.
‘The school is very excited about the new gymnasium facilities. It’s going to seat about 60 more people than our current gym does, at least. We were just a little under 300 at the old gym and we’re at 340 now, so we can seat about 60 more people,” O’Donnell said. “And, we are competitive. Both of our basketball teams went to the state final four this year, and we have brand new facilities for our volleyball and basketball this year. We would love to see some athletes come here and play with us and join the school.”
In addition to the new gymnasium complete with six basketball hoops, the new activity center will also provide additional educational space on the western side of the building, according to O’Donnell.
“There’s a lot of discussion about how to use that [educational space],” O’Donnell said. “Right now, it looks like we are going to divide that up into two big rooms. We have a Sunday school class that is very large that needs a new place to move, so they will be using that, and then that also gives the school some flexibility with two additional classrooms. So, they can help the school grow as well.”
In addition to the large classrooms within the activity center, the church’s youth pastor, David Harkleroad, reported that the dedication of a large portion of the space within the facility for a youth room highlights the church’s dedication to its younger members.
“It’s just a real blessing to be a part of church that values the youth the way they do,” Harkleroad said. “From start to finish, the trustees, the building the committee, the whole church, have just bent over backward to make sure that we have everything that we need for our young people — from pre-school to twelfth grade.”
Harkleroad also picked up on a sentiment also discussed by Swisher, in that the mission of the church to “preach Christ” is thereby carried over into each of the church’s projects, including this one.
“I think Ed kind of nailed it also when he said, where [the building committee] started was with ‘we preach Christ.’” Harkleroad said. “That is the mission of the church, and that shines through with everything that we do, with every age group, and I think this building is just going to be another way to help us proclaim that message more clearly.”
O’Donnell also spoke of Swisher’s involvement and dedication to the project.
“We really need to highlight how well Ed has done as the chairman of this committee, he has given us good counsel, he has helped us build consensus. We believe that we have the best value for every dollar that we have spent on the building, and he has been a big part of that,” O’Donnell said. “We have had overwhelming support from day one for the building project. I just think it’s been managed really well and there’s a great deal of unity both within in the church and within the school.
“We just want this whole project to be to the glory of God,” O’Donnell continued. “We just want to see the cause of Christ advanced in our community, and I think the building will help us do that.”
Sunday school at First Baptist Church begins at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning. Regular service begins at 10 a.m. and Sunday evening service begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday evening adult Bible study begins at 7 p.m. and youth groups and the Awana program, for children through grade six, begin at 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday.
Transportation is provided to all church services. For more information, call (740) 446-0374.
The Ohio Valley Christian School is also accepting enrollment for students in grades pre-k through twelfth grade for the 2013-2014 school year, according to O’Donnell. For more information visit www.ovcs.net.