By Zach Baliva

One of Springfield’s biggest and most visible construction projects in 2015 is already underway. Calvary Temple Christian Center owns about 196 acres of land on the city’s south side and has started construction on what church leaders are calling Phase I of a long-term project to relocate all facilities from the current space at 1730 W. Jefferson St.

In fact, the foundation is already poured at the new site along Interstate 72, and the property on Jefferson was put on the market last year. Chris Tarpley, Calvary’s business administrator, says the current facility’s age and condition made the decision an easy one. Almost 45 of the church’s 48 years have unfolded at the Jefferson location, and wear and tear finally caught up with the place after a series of bolt-on additions designed to accommodate growth over time. “The facility just isn’t attractive or modern anymore and there’s deferred maintenance,” says Tarpley.

The real driver for the move, though, has been Calvary’s commitment to its children. “It wasn’t so much for the sanctuary, but for everything that happens outside the sanctuary,” Tarpley explains. In Phase I, a Design / Build firm out of Frankfort, Illinois, known as Aspen Group (which advertises as “The Midwest’s Premier Church Construction Company”) will build a 30,000-foot sanctuary to accommodate at least 900 people, space for Calvary’s children’s program, classrooms and a cafe.

Later phases may include a separate building for high school students, offices, and athletic fields. Springfieldians, of course, have long expected to see baseball and other sports facilities on the site, which has been home to two such projects that eventually fizzled out. First there was the Xanadu sports complex, which was followed by the Legacy Sports Complex. Initial plans had a Pawnee company building and operating a year-round complex and several outdoor fields on ground owned by Calvary. Plans were so far along that Calvary originally planned to build its new church east of Hazel Dell, but when the Legacy deal fell through, Tarpley and his colleagues decided to move the project across the street.

Tarpley says visibility was a factor – the church will be accessible from Hazel Dell Road or Second Street. In fact, you’ll be able to see the campus from miles away. That’s because Calvary is about to erect a 100-foot cross near the freeway. The structure will be lit at night and sit adjacent to gardens and a walking path.

As for the space on Jefferson St., everything – including the school property – is for sale. For now, though, Tarpley says Calvary Temple Christian Center is focused on the church building and completing the project’s first phase. The school (Pre-K through 12th grade) and on-site day care will remain at Jefferson until Calvary either builds a new school with its own funds or sells enough property to finance the job. Additionally, the church will continue to use the Jefferson Street lot for its administrative offices. Since Calvary’s education department is separated from the church, Tarpley does not expect any sale or construction project to cause significant impact or interruption to classroom activities.

Once construction is complete, Calvary will encourage its members and staff to welcome the community into the new space. “We want this to be a seven-day-a-week destination for families,” says Tarpley. “We’re getting away from the idea of a church just being used for one or two days a week and then sitting dark.” He says indoor play areas, an operational café and other spaces will be open to the public.

The $7-8 million project will be funded from various sources including tithes and offerings, NOW campaign commitments, property sales, farming proceeds and possibly debt. Land sales alone could bring in up to $3 million. Although Calvary has plans for much of its land on the south side, the church owns more than it plans to use. Of 196 acres (the building site, the old Egizii farm east of Second and north of I-72, and a portion of the Bouas farm west of Second), Calvary will likely keep just 80.  Tarpley expects to sell up to 15 acres of land to Springfield’s long-awaited high-speed rail project in the next three years. That land is valued at $300,000, while the land on Second Street has an approximate value of $2 million.

Zach Baliva is a media producer and journalist living in Springfield.



Build Timeline:

Start parking lot

January – February:
Build exterior walls

February – March:
Install cross

March – April:
Install roof

April – May:
Install slab

May – September:
Finish interior rooms

September – October:
Complete landscaping and parking lot