Originally created 09/01/01

Center gives church place to grow in mind, body



In barely 10 months, a $3.5 million, 30,000-square-foot family life center has mushroomed behind Abilene Baptist Church of Martinez.

Members can shoot basketball in the full-size gymnasium or rack up miles on the indoor walking track or treadmills in the exercise room before heading to the locker rooms. A welcome center, 18 classrooms, a spacious kitchen and snack bar can also accommodate large groups, such as state conferences or tournaments.

Abilene, at 3917 Washington Road, will dedicate the center Sunday during the11 a.m. service and hold guided tours starting at 5:30 p.m. Brian Free and Assurance will present a concert in the sanctuary at 7 p.m. to cap the dedication day.

In the coming days, the brick and split-block complex will be put to work for Abilene members and their guests. "The building will open early for people who want to come walk or work out," said the Rev. William Harrell, pastor.

Each of the center's 18 classrooms has its own oak cabinetry and sink. Some rooms can be converted into spaces big enough to seat 120 people and offer large screens mounted for audiovisual displays.

A wide band of Burgundy - a color Abilene adopted years ago - circles the gymnasium floor. Above the Burgundy ribbon is a balcony with a walking track. Its 1/2-inch-thick surface was designed to cushion knees and ankles. The surface "is more dense than a foam - it has some 'give,"' the Rev. Harrell said.

Sixteen and a half turns equals a mile. An elevator can return them to the ground floor.

The gym's bleachers will seat 300. Sound-deadening panels will help trap reverberations. In most gyms, the "hollering just gets louder and louder" once the crowd and the basketball get going, the Rev. Harrell said.

The gymnasium also can be used as a dining area when a protective floor covering is in place. A kitchen adjacent to the gym is equipped to handle 600 to 700 people with the help of two large warming ovens, a walk-in freezer and walk-in refrigerator. Appliances are stainless steel.

The snack bar with ice cream parlor chairs and round tables will accommodate 40 to 50. A nearby game room with billiards and pingpong tables and the exercise room has treadmills, stair-steps, elliptical training devices, stationary bicycles and weightlifting equipment.

The craft room has a kiln, a gift from a member, he said.

Abilene members will use digital cards to gain entry to the building during its hours of operation, the Rev. Harrell said. "If people want to come to the workout room, they don't have to be a member but they would have to be accompanied by a member."

Dedication ceremony

Dedication of the $3.5 million family life center at Abilene Baptist Church, 3917 Washington Road in Martinez, will be held during the 11 a.m. service Sunday. Guided tours will start at 5:30 p.m., and a concert by Brian Free and Assurance will follow at 7 p.m. For more information, call 869-1774.

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or vanorton@augustachronicle.com.