When the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) set out to build a new building at the Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, a Monolithic Dome was not the first thought. In fact, it was practically an afterthought. “We were looking at conventional construction,” stated BGCO Operations Team Leader Scott Phillips. The architect, Michael McCoy, slipped the idea of a Monolithic Dome in as an afterthought, not as top of mind.
From there, they were directed to www.monolithic.org to learn more. “It was super fascinating and we were intrigued with it right away,” Phillips said. As a non-profit organization, Phillips stated they began talking about whether this would be more cost effective. Being in Oklahoma, safety is another issue because of the risk of tornadoes.
When these factors were considered, Phillips stated it was not a difficult decision, rather “it was us getting used to the idea of a dome.” McCoy used the orientation and design of the building to help integrate it with the existing architecture at the site. “That helped us to become more comfortable with the radical difference of how it appears.”
The site of the conference center is remote and on the side of a mountain. In addition to the dome, a hotel and welcome center were built at the same time at the site. The hotel is located next door to the dome and connects to it. The dome has been completed and in use for a year and was named the Mathena Family Event Center, after Harold Mathena who donated money for the construction.
The dome was inflated and built by South Industries, with Wynn Construction of Oklahoma City as the general contractor. The dome proved to be unique and different for South Industries. The dome is an elliptical shape, which project manager Nathan South stated it was the biggest one of this kind to be built. From the inflation of the Airform until they were done was a total of nine weeks, with fans going for almost two weeks. That was a “little longer than most structures we build,” South stated.
The shape was warranted because of the site. “They wanted one that big but didn’t have the room, so they stretched it,” said South. But if needed again South stated that they could build a dome like the Mathena Family Event Center again.
The dome has around 35,000 square feet of floor area, which is needed due to its function as a gathering center. “The dome is where we host our dining facility and also a large gathering area for big group events,” Phillips said. There also is a commercial kitchen, which was built on the exterior of the structure and attached to the dome. “That way we could heat and cool the kitchen separately from the dome,” Phillips said.
That commercial kitchen and the dome’s floor space are needed because Falls Creek is a year-round conference center and church camp. Phillips stated it is the largest Christian encampment in the world, hosting 50,000 to 60,000 students in an eight week time frame during the summer.
How is the dome serving that purpose? “I think that in almost every respect, we’ve been extremely pleased with it, “ said Phillips. “It’s functioned with us as we expected.” The only issue? Managing the sound in that large of a space, which they addressed on an incremental basis. The room was first designed with acoustic clouds to prevent bounce, then additional sound batting was added to the tops of those clouds. They are currently working on a digital solution with the sound system to eliminate hot and cold spots of sound.
All in all, the Monolithic Dome has quickly turned into a ministry landmark at this historic Christian camp known throughout North America, Falls Creek.