The clock is ticking for Tri-City Baptist Church, where prayer services and classes at its school, college and graduate school are slated to begin at a new $21.5 million south Chandler campus next month.
The church recently found itself about $1 million short of fundraising targets, said Michael Sproul, senior pastor, and it was difficult to convince lenders to loan them money because of the economic downturn.
“I’m not sure they’d loan God money right now,” Sproul said.
Nevertheless, the church managed to secure a bridge loan to finish construction at its more than 13-acre site southwest of Dobson and Germann roads. Prayer services are expected to begin Aug. 23, with school starting the next day, Sproul said.
It has taken about seven years to complete the campus, which includes the church, a missionary effort and schooling for students from preschool through high school. The campus also will be home to the International Baptist College, which is accredited with the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, and dorms to house up to 110 college students.
Joey Finney, 19, of Chaparral, N.M., has already moved into the dorm, which sleeps four to a room. He said he’s studying for an associate’s degree to go into youth ministry.
“It’s different from being an only kid, but I got used to it pretty fast,” Finney said.
Tri-City Church is moving to Chandler from its current site in Tempe, at Price Road and Southern Avenue. Sproul said the Tempe site, which the church had occupied for nearly 40 years, recently sold for $7 million to a charter school.
As of Tuesday, construction was still ongoing at the new Chandler campus. Sproul said about 40 college students are expected to call the dorms home in the first semester. Additional dorms and a 16,000-square-foot college and seminary building are planned over the next several years.
The church, which counts about 750 people as members of its congregation, espouses a conservative religious credo, including a literal interpretation of the Bible.
“It’s a traditional Baptist/Protestant view of theology,” Sproul said.
The church and its educational branch were founded by Pastor James Singleton in response to the “negative direction of public education in America,” according to the church’s Web site. All told, the college is expected eventually to attract up to 250 college students, 450 grade-school students, and up to 80 preschoolers, Sproul said. College tuition and room and board run about $13,000 per student a year, with tuition for grade-school students about $4,000 a year, he said.
“The student-teacher ratio is extremely low,” he said.
The campus has 2.3 acres “under roof,” Sproul said. Other features at the campus include a 1,000-seat auditorium for church services and performances, a large basketball gym, and a 70,000-book library.
“It’s been collected over the last 35 years,” Sproul said.
The church’s 40-piece orchestra and 70-member choir are composed of parishioners and students.
“A lot of them have grown up in our school, and we have a heavy emphasis on music,” Sproul said.
Toward the back of the campus is a large field with stadium lighting, where the church plans to form a children’s soccer league, he said. The land abuts the city’s Chuparosa Park.
Much of the funding for the new campus came from contributions of parishioners, in donations of $10,000 to $20,000, he said. Sproul said he donated $125,000 by flipping a house when the market was booming and donating the proceeds to the church. He and other members give up to 30 percent of their incomes to the church.
“We just had a donor walk in and give us $100,000 for an organ,” he said.
The campus’ education component was eligible for tax-exempt bonds, Sproul said.
Others have volunteered labor and donated in kind, Sproul said. For instance, the church saved millions of dollars on air-conditioning installation because a parishioner offered to do the work for a reduced cost, he said. The congregation also saved up to $1 million by having volunteers install the landscaping, he said.
“We called a work day and we got 100 people out here for three or four hours in the morning,” he said.