The Rock Family Worship – S.R. Butler High School Renovation
Year Completed: July 2018
Project Location: Huntsville, Alabama
Project Size: 24,500 square feet
Existing Renovation Construction Cost: $8.8 M
Chapman Sisson Architects
The Rock Family Worship purchased the former Butler High School from Huntsville City Schools in 2016 in order to relocate their growing main campus. The Butler site offered the perfect location for where The Rock felt a need to serve in the community, as well as speak to their desire to renovate buildings that would otherwise sit vacant.
The project included the intensive demolition and extensive renovation of the existing Butler High School Competition Gymnasium into a new modern worship space seating just under 1,600 people. The renovation consisted of the removal of the gym bleacher seating and the installation of both movable seating on the lower floor and theater seating on the upper level. Other areas that were altered included support spaces for the new public restrooms, prefunction areas for pastors and the praise team and connection to the main campus.
A challenging portion of the work included swapping the stage locations which involved the demolition of a two-floor weight room, which was backfilled and poured with concrete to create a new elevated stage. The center ceiling-hung mechanical room was dismantled through a tedious and careful process. The gym floor remained in place and the concessions were removed to make way for a large common area. All new electrical, water and HVAC were installed. The entire structure was upgraded to meet seismic requirements and multiple catwalks were installed. Another obstacle to overcome was to remediate an enormous water leak at the old school. A new water line was installed and tied into the existing line to stop the leak. Other features included the installation of innovative sound panels, acoustical clouds, lighting and a large LED wall. The AVL and house lighting for the church was designed and installed by Jimi Zink, formerly of Jacksonville, Florida.
“This journey has been an illustrated sermon of how God restores broken lives,” stated Rusty Nelson, founder and senior pastor of the Rock. Since The Rock began in Huntsville in 1999, it has never built a new facility, but it has consistently taken existing locations and renovated them to serve the needs of the church and community. The connection between the Rock and Butler began long before the purchase of the building, as the church focused on many different ways of supporting the school through the years.
The Rock consists of five campuses around North Alabama and Southern Tennessee, as well as its online campus and local television show.
“This was a school. It was a 50-year-old school,” said Leisa Nelson, Co-Lead Pastor. “We knew the renovation would be great and it would be a process, but it’s been worth every minute.” She says this is the first Sunday that the worship service was held in the auditorium. The church held a soft launch last Sunday, and Leisa says they met in the theater for that service. This Sunday’s worship service was significant, she explains, because it was the first time the church met for worship in the main auditorium. She points out that the auditorium is a place of many special memories for graduates of Butler High School. “This was the gymnasium,” Leisa says. “It’s where they housed most of their state championships.”