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First Baptist Church Covington

First Baptist Church Covington (FBCC) in Covington, Louisiana , wanted their Recreation Outreach Center, known as The ROC, to project an image of excitement and fun. They succeeded.

The center's target users, the youth of the church and the greater community, have overwhelmingly responded to its bright colors, high-tech amenities, and comfortable furnishings — all of which bring an engaging energy to its versatile, multi-purpose space.

"Some people have said that this is the most phenomenal youth area they've ever seen in a church," says FBCC Education Pastor Clif Smith.

In fact, the response when First Baptist completed its original 8,481-square-foot ROC was so spectacular that they started work on a 20,265-square-foot, two-story expansion just two years later.

Both the original structure and expansion were done by the same design/build team—Butler Builder Kent Construction, Inc. of Mandeville, Louisiana, and Fauntleroy Latham Weldon Barré Architects (FLWB) of Covington.

The church put the project in good hands. Both Kyle Kent, president of Kent Construction, and Nathaniel Parks, AIA — the project architect — are members of the congregation.

Kent Construction has a Faith Division that focuses solely on church facilities. The builder also has worked with FLWB on numerous projects, and currently provides specialized design/build expertise to denominations throughout Southeast Louisiana and Southern Mississippi.

Growth Begets Growth

FBCC built the original ROC with a mission: to expand their student ministry by providing an inviting place for teenagers to connect in a large group setting. The building would contain a café, gaming consoles, and a large gathering space with stage and audio/visual equipment.

For economy, quality and flexibility, the design/build team chose an easy-to-reconfigure Widespan structural system topped by a low-maintenance Butler architectural standing seam roof system. Colorful exterior architectural metal panels completed the building's edgy industrial appeal.

The center proved to be so appealing that Sunday school attendance quickly grew to around 140 to 160 seventh to 12th graders a week. However, its single gathering space proved unsuitable for many small groups engaged in Bible study.

Expanding the Image

The structural and roof systems used for ROC I made it easy to build an addition. It also made it easy for Kent Construction and FLWB to preserve and enhance the facility's enticing appearance.

"On the expansion's exterior, we used the same materials and matched the color palette from the original ROC project to make the two phases of construction look like a single building," Parks explained.

Inside, the expansion was planned to consist primarily of classrooms, with a small assembly room and offices for FBCC staff. The project also included refurbishing ROC I.

"Among other things, we turned the original gathering space more completely into a first-class performance venue," said Parks.

For interior continuity, the design/build team took such steps as refinishing the stained concrete floors in ROC I.

"We created a new pattern that is continuous from one building to the other. We repainted the walls in ROC I to match the new color palette in ROC II and created a large opening between the ROC I and ROC II gathering spaces," Parks said.

A fully glazed 16-foot-wide overhead door —  similar to those found in a fire station — was installed between ROC I and ROC II. The glazed door allows for simultaneous multiple uses of the facility while maintaining the facility's open look and feel.

The Personal Touch

Concerned with maintaining and updating The ROC's ambiance, the FBCC leadership had active input in the design/build process. They visited churches throughout Louisiana where an innovative youth culture was a priority. They shot photos and video footage of interesting concepts and best practices. They also wanted to extend the appeal of the facility to include young adults.

"We took our time to think through colors, shapes, furniture, carpet," said Smith.

Parks said, "The church wanted the colors to be youthful and fun rather than sophisticated or subtle, subtle, so we went with a primary color scheme that included red, yellow, and turquoise. We wanted to avoid trendy colors and color combinations that would become dated. Primary colors are timeless and part of everyone's inner child."

If the church leadership wanted everything to be perfect, so did the builder. Smith says that Kent Construction's dedication to getting everything just right was impressive.

For example, when unsatisfactory stairway treads led to disagreements between the manufacturer and the installer, Smith recalls that Kyle Kent stepped in and addressed the problem without placing blame.

Smith said, "His approach was to say, 'This one looks perfect — that one does not. How can we make them both perfect?'"

A Vision Fulfilled

The expansion opened to rave reviews. The church was very pleased with their design/build team's ability to once again deliver a project that more than met their goals.

"They were phenomenal to work with," Smith said. "Everyone was overwhelmed with the look of the building."

According to FBCC Senior Pastor Dr. Waylon Bailey, "Kent Construction knows how to work with churches to help you fulfill your vision."

And, thanks to The ROC projects, young people in and around Covington now have something the community had lacked.

"We ended up with an outstanding building that is making a difference in the lives of the FBCC congregation," concluded architect Parks.


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