A new religious phenomenon is sweeping our country: the megachurch. According to a Christian Science Monitor website (www.csmonitor.com), in 1970 America had only 10 megachurches. By 2003, that number had grown to 740.
Megachurches, usually defined by their size, are Christian churches, often nondenominational, that enjoy a weekly service attendance of at least 2000 worshipers.
Legacy Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico
It fits that bill! Legacy has a current congregation of 5,000; a new Monolithic Dome sanctuary that seats 3,000; a ministry that includes special programs for every age group; televised, recorded services with contemporary music and drama presentations; an elementary school and a bible academy.
But Legacy was not always a megachurch. In January 2004, Senior Pastor Steve Smotherman launched a new expansion program called Imagine a Place.
“That’s when Pastor Steve got his committee together of about 8 people,” said Daniel McCabe, project manager and church member at Legacy. Although the committee members had no voting power, Pastor Steve wanted their thoughts and ideas as their research of church construction began.
Mr. McCabe said that at that point they knew nothing about Monolithic Domes. “We found out about the domes from a gentleman who was in Clovis, New Mexico and saw one (Llano Estacado Body of Christ Church) being put up. So we got in contact with Lee Gray and Jesse Harris, the architects who designed the Clovis church.”
A group visit to a Monolithic Dome church in Texas and what Mr. McCabe described as “a lot of online research with Monolithic” followed. “That’s how the decision to go with a Monolithic Dome was made,” Mr. McCabe said. “And I can tell you this: The number one reason (for that decision) was how much less expensive it was going to be than conventional construction.”
Asked if there was anything unique or special about Legacy’s dome, Leland Gray, co-owner of LPDJ Architects, LLC in Salt Lake City, Utah said, “It’s a relatively conventional approach to a dome. I think that probably the most significant thing is the cost for the number of seats that were secured. It ran about $4.2 million. A conventional structure of the same size probably would have cost about $6 million. So they saved $1.5 to $1.8 million.”
What Legacy Church got for that price is a Monolithic Dome sanctuary with a diameter of 192 feet and a height of 50 feet that includes a 14-foot stem wall.
Note: On ongoing expenses, Monolithic Domes save dramatically over conventional construction when it comes to energy needs. Energy costs range between 50% to 75% less than normal. Less equipment is needed to maintain constant temperatures. Less equipment means less maintenance and replacement when it wears out. If these savings are accumulated in an interest bearing account they can equal the total cost of the facility in less than 20 years.
A successful blending
“The dome was an addition to an existing, traditional building,” Mr. Gray said. “It had a very strong southwestern style, so it was very easy to adapt the dome into that. In other words, we blended the two together.”
That traditional building was Legacy’s old sanctuary, a structure that the church administrators had planned to tear down. Mr. Gray persuaded them not to. He said, “We saved a significant amount of money by retaining that old sanctuary. We designed it into a spectacular grand lobby for the new sanctuary. We had to restructure it, but we gained a lot of space by utilizing what was there.”
With its stadium seating on a sloped floor and its uninterrupted sightlines, the sanctuary’s interior mimics a modern, well-appointed theater. Services began during the first week of January 2005.
“We definitely love it,” Mr. McCabe said. “Our sanctuary turned out really, really nice. We’ve had tons of people come by. They started coming when the Airform was inflated. Then more came during the construction. Lots of curiosity. We had folks who were just driving by, as well as other architects and contractors. Now we still get a lot of visitors. We’re definitely very excited about it, so we’re happy to show it.”
Note: This article was originally published in June 2005. Quoted prices date back to 2004.