Launching as a church plant from Knoxville’s Grace Baptist Church on Easter of 2009, Foothills Church began its ministry in a rented school gymnasium. The church moved to a permanent home in 2011, where Studio Four Design and Leon Williams Contractors assisted them in two phases to renovate an existing 35,000-square foot bowling alley, restaurant and arcade into a new church facility. The first phase provided children’s ministry space along with a temporary worship environment seating around 300. The church more than doubled its attendance from 180 to 400, soon after this phase was completed. The second phase, a 600-seat auditorium, began in 2013 and allowed the church to grow to more than 800 in attendance over the next three years. This amazing rate of growth brought Foothills Church to the point where they were offering three services each weekend in their existing building, prompting them to begin phase three in August 2016. They acquired an adjacent piece of property to allow them to create a new, larger auditorium seating 1,200 for worship that provides room for future growth. By moving the worship functions out of the existing building, the church is now able to renovate the interior of their current facility to accommodate growth in both their children and student ministries.
Studio Four Design and Leon Williams Contractors worked as a design-build team to develop the design of the phase three auditorium. In addition to a 1,200-seat dynamic worship environment, this new facility includes a café, connect center, pastor’s office suite, fellowship space, a new unique baptistery located within the large lobby. The auditorium features a trio of flat floor seating, low rise and stadium seating and features a high-tech audio-visual experience to complement their style of worship. The entire audio, video and lighting setup is state of the art, and Foothills Church’s audio/video consultant worked with the design-build team to ensure that the piping and conduit placement were considered during every step of the building process. LWC also had to ensure the sound equipment had clean power via isolation transformers so no interfering frequencies would disrupt the technology involved in a service.
The building is structurally organized around a series of pre-engineered metal buildings that are combined to create one large worship and gathering space. The materials used on the interior are stone and wood that reflect their name and location in the “foothills” of the Smoky Mountains. Large glass storefronts introduce an abundant amount of natural light to enhance the interior environment. The metal panels that are used on the exterior are finished with natural tones of shades of grays to reflect the assortment of colors found in the stone that wraps the large columns on the front of the building.
To help with the flow of traffic, and since the church was limited to one point of ingress and egress, the design also included a traffic circle in the parking lot. A church with a large congregation presents a unique challenge: unlike retail establishments with steady traffic in and out, a church experiences extremely heavy traffic a few times a week. The roundabout helps traffic flow with as little congestion as possible and gives church leaders flexibility with traffic patterns.
The design of this project required significant team effort. Communication and coordination between the architectural team, contractor, engineers, AVL team, client and the pre-engineered metal building manufacturer was critical for the success of the project. The building was completed construction and opened on Easter Sunday this year.
The numbers have been great at Foothills Church, but numbers on Sunday is not the goal. The mission of Foothills Church has always been focused on making disciples. Lead Pastor Trent Stewart once said, “We’ve never been motivated by growing a church. We’re motivated by the Great Commission and the power of the gospel. We don’t want people to simply go to church, we want them to be the church.”