Free Chapel in Gainesville, GA opens its first mulitsite location with stunning technical results – brought together by a collaborative effort between architect, contractor, AVL Designer and the church itself.
By Keith Loria, Worship Facilities Magazine
August 20, 2015
When Free Chapel in Gainesville, Georgia acquired a new campus facility in Gwinnett County out of bankruptcy, its goal was to renovate the facility with a first-class, cutting-edge upgrade. Its vision was realized — in no small part — by a collaborative effort between architect, contractor, AVL designer, integrator and the church itself. Today, the campus utilizes the latest technology to preach the Gospel. From sound, to lights and visual clarity of the screen technology, Free Chapel Gwinnett offers an amazing experience no matter your location in the sanctuary.
GETTING A PLAN
Brian C. Smith, Free Chapel’s chief of strategic opportunities, serves Pastor Franklin and the church, handling the day-to-day media needs at the campuses as well as the international
broadcast ministry, Kingdom Connection. For his part in the project, he worked with Free Chapel’s technical director, service director and executive team to formulate a plan that would fulfill Pastor Franklin’s vision for multisite transmission while taking the broadcast ministry to high definition.
“When Pastor Franklin shared his vision to utilize technology through multi-site, we knew we would need to get advice from those already working in this arena as well as those in broadcasting who had specific knowledge of the technology,” Smith says. “We utilized consultant Jim Tomberlin to help craft the beginnings of our multisite footprint based on his early work with ministries like Willow Creek.”
Once they understood what would be required, the team moved into the technology sector and reached out to ministries in Atlanta and other cities who were multi-siting successfully.
“At that point our technology team worked to explore best practices as well as available solutions for our style of ministry,” Smith says. “We were seeking solutions that would allow for future growth, too. All in all I would say we discussed our project with at least five to six other ministries, utilizing their brightest minds to help us take the next steps forward.” For AVL design Moyers Group was chosen for the new facility. Through the use of 3-D modeling, Moyers was able to align the project closely to fulfill Free Chapel’s vision. Jeremy Moyers, president, states, “our team was able to design the auditorium to meet the look and feel of the room that was expressed by Free Chapel, while maximizing the seating capacity, optimizing anticipated site lines, and specifying required stage dimensions and rigging points. 3-D modeling is an incredibly powerful tool that our team utilizes in all of our projects. These models allow our team to take the church on a virtual tour of their new facility, thus ensuring that the vision and needs of the church are being met long before before actual work begins.”
THE TEAM GATHERS
Kenneth Barnett, senior project manager for Van Winkle Construction, fulfilled the role of the general contractor for this project, working alongside project superintendent Jimmy Roberts and project engineer Andrew Luther. “Van Winkle’s work included altering the stage (pulpit) area, flanking walls, structure and concrete slab to allow for more seating capacity in the sanctuary and installation of the AVL components,” he says. “We also removed all existing lighting, installed new LED lighting, circuitry and raceways for the AVL system.”
Additionally, the company installed new HVAC systems to accommodate increased seating and system loading, removed all existing acoustical panels, installed new drywall/trim, painted all surfaces, designed and installed new acoustical treatment as well as new flooring.
“This space is very engulfing,” Barnett says. “When you’re in the sanctuary with all of its systems working together, you are ‘in it,’ not just watching it or listening to the message. The AVL system is over the top and completely surrounds you.
Brewster & Crocker Architects served as project architects and interior designers with architect Jeff Crocker. “As with any project type, it is extremely important to collaborate with everyone that has a key role in ‘making it happen.’ All team members are vital, starting with the church’s key leaders of each ministry, the project’s AVL designers [Moyers Group], all of our various engineers and the contractors,” he says. “We spent countless hours in meetings working through the various details. It does get taxing at times, especially when deadlines are tight and expectations are high; however, the entire team did a phenomenal job and the project turned out great.”
Together they refined a working 3D design model used to collaborate with each other on anticipated design and site lines, seating capacities, required stage dimensions and rigging points. “This was an extremely helpful tool, it allowed us to show the client exactly what they were getting before construction started,” Crocker says. “Good AVL design, in combination with good architectural design, provides the two key ingredients of successful church design. Then you add a mix of a contractor that under-stands all of this and delivers a quality construction product, which we did. Add these ingredients together; the final result is a facility that the church can use to grow their ministries.”
For his part, Crocker listened to the church and tried to capture the worship experience it wanted to create.
As a result, Crocker designed an environment where the people in the room are fully immersed in the experience of growing in their relationship with God. “From a design standpoint, using the advances in AVL technology to our advantage, probably made the biggest impact on this multi-site room,” he says. “The combination of an attractive efficient room design, good acoustic/sound design, and amazing lighting/video technology created an environment that provides a room that Free Chapel wanted for their worship experience.”
THE FINAL PRODUCT
During construction, all of the parties met weekly to ensure that the overall design, schedule, and budgets were being met and upheld. The completed facility married the church’s reputation for highly participatory, dynamic worship and relevant teaching with the best in production technology to create a special environment. The room features a lot of LED —from color changing LED house lighting, LED video walls, and numerous LED theatrical lights. The audio system uses separate Digico FOH and monitor desk with Meyer line array speakers and subs. There is also a large fully functional video suite that can be used for TV production. “From a technology standpoint, our auditorium received an HD integration upgrade with Absen LED screens, new Hitachi HD Cameras, a Grand MA light console and new Digico Audio Consoles for FOH and broadcast,” Smith says.
“Our media control room received the greatest overhaul allowing for an auditorium control room, a new broadcast control room, and a master control for multisite transmission. The separation in technology allows for us to handle the growing needs at new campuses as well as a growing on-line audience, all while delivering the Free Chapel experience to those in the auditorium in Gainesville.”
According to Moyers, Moyers Group, “the primary AVL design strength that will set Free Chapel up for success in future multisite ventures is the thoroughness of design and equipment choices that were made for their main capture and distribution campus in Gainesville, Georgia. Multisite is not easy. It takes great coordination and communication between campuses. Having the right technology in place to facilitate this, from the multisite communications platform, multisite encoders and decoders, dual stream capture, time slip and playback, etc. – are all key factors in the success of multisite.”
Crocker describes the worship room at Free Chapel Gwinnett “truly special.” “From auditorium design and a technical standpoint, the room is amazing. Yet at the same time, it has a scale and intimacy that fully captures what Free Chapel wanted in a multi-site campus,” he says. “The room can be vibrant and energetic one minute and immediately changed to a room that is quiet
and reflective the next.”