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New SBTS facility consolidates guest housing, conference space

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–It’s called the Conference Center at Southern Seminary, but it will do more than simply host conferences.

The newest addition to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s campus opened its doors for the fall board of trustees meeting Oct. 14-16. The conference center provided both accommodations and meeting rooms for board members.

Seminary officials hope the new facility’s convenience and location will help draw additional conferences and events to the Louisville, Ky., campus. The $7 million conference center includes 70 guest rooms — 35 of which are suites — and four conference rooms.

It will be used for a variety of activities, including hosting prospective students and campus guests. In the past, guest housing was scattered across the campus in three separate dorms. At times, guests were forced to stay in off-campus hotels.

The new facility consolidates guest housing in one central location.

“As we look back on the construction of this facility, we’re going to see this as a turning point — not only on the physical composition of the campus, but also the addition of capacity like we’ve never had before,” Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said.

Southern alumni will remember the facility best for what it once was — Rice and Judson Halls. Those two dorms, which sat side by side, were gutted, renovated and joined in the middle to form the new facility.

Trustees met in the largest conference room, which holds 200 people. Another conference room holds 100, while the other two hold 20.

The seminary already has a growing list of conferences, including the Gheens lectures, Carl F.H. Henry Center events, Great Commission Week, Heritage Week and the Power in the Pulpit preaching seminar.

“The vision is that Southern Seminary becomes a world-class conference facility to where people know us not only for our academic degrees but also as a place where you can come for continuing training,” said John Ewart, who coordinates the conference center’s programs. He serves as associate vice president for distance education and innovative learning.

The vision, he said, is to host conferences of all sizes — both academic and lay-level.

“Southern Seminary should be noted for hosting the very finest conferences,” Ewart said. “Southern Seminary ought to host the finest annual prayer conference that anybody in the evangelical world can attend. Southern Seminary ought to host the finest worship conferences, preaching conferences, discipleship conferences, Sunday School conferences.”

The target audience for the conferences, Ewart said, is the seminary family and alumni, as well as church leaders, denominational workers and scholars. Ewart said he hopes to reach ministers and lay leaders who may never have exposure to seminary training.

“There’s a group out there who are never going to attend Southern for a degree — some who will never be able to attend seminary at all,” he said. “I think that not only do we need to provide continuing education to those who have already received theological education or who are in the process of theological education, but I think we also need to provide some initial education for those who have never had the opportunity for serious, official theological education.”

Three types of rooms are available, ranging in price from $69-$89. People may make reservations by calling 1-877-444-SBTS.
Bryan Cribb contributed to this article. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: ENTRY POINT, SIDE VIEW and GUEST ROOM.

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  • Michael Foust