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Southern Baptist conference centers revitalization launched at Ridgecrest

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Phase one of revitalization plans for LifeWay Ridgecrest (N.C.) Center and for LifeWay Glorieta (N.M.) Conference Center was launched a breakfast and groundbreaking ceremony May 15 for a new hotel and conference center space at Ridgecrest.

LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention owns and operates both centers.

Upon its completion in the summer of 2002, an $8.5 million hotel at Ridgecrest will have 120 guestrooms and several thousand square feet of conference and breakout space. At the end of the 15-year renovation plan, older buildings will be replaced with five new hotels. The hotels will range from economy to premium quality. Other plans call for rerouting the Ridgecrest entrance up the mountain around the new Rutland Chapel, now under construction.

Mike Arrington, vice president of LifeWay’s corporate affairs division, showed 175 guests attending the event a copy of the master plan for the 15-year revitalization and how it will affect Ridgecrest.

“Ridgecrest and Glorieta are by far the two largest Christian conference center facilities in the nation. We can serve almost twice the number of guests any other conference center in the country can serve,” he said.

LifeWay is a nonprofit organization and has never has received any contributions from the Southern Baptist Convention, Arrington said.

“Never in our history have we received any Cooperative Program money,” he emphasized. “Those funds go to missions. For that reason, we do seek donations from individuals and others who would have an interest in our ministry and what we are doing in this revitalization program. That includes grant-making foundations that can help us make the improvements that we need to make.”

The projects presently under construction come out of the LifeWay Christian Resources budget.

Arrington said, “We will ask donors to contribute to this hotel, as well as to future projects, as a way of honoring or memorializing someone.”

Built in 1907, LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center has hosted more than a million guests at its mountain location in its almost 100 years.

LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr. told the group that Ridgecrest has had a long history with the Black Mountain, N.C., area, and he called Ridgecrest a “good neighbor,” citing the economic impact the conference center has had on the area.

“We have 90 area residents who work here during the year, and the Buncombe County Tourism and Development Office reports that each year people attending Ridgecrest contribute $36,253,900 to the economy of this area. That is not a small contribution. The dollars spent at Ridgecrest reduce the local tax burden by $250,000.”

A major part of the revitalization at Ridgecrest includes the remodeling of existing buildings. During the initial phase of renovations, improvements will be made to areas used by guests. Technology improvements, fully remodeled classrooms, new paint, wallpaper, carpet, tiling, windows and doors are among changes planned for classrooms.

Other improvements will be made to restrooms, hallways, entrances and roofs on several classroom buildings.

The first new construction in 27 years at Ridgecrest began March 28 with construction of the 300-seat Rutland Chapel, given by the Rutland Family Foundation, which provided a $1 million gift. The Rutland family operates Decatur, Ga., -based Allied Holdings.

For information about how individuals, churches, corporations and foundations can be a part of this revitalization program, contact Stacey Owens by phone at (615) 251-3878, by e-mail at [email protected] or by mail at 127 9th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37234-0189.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: RIDGECREST MASTER PLAN, REVITALING RIDGECREST, ENVISIONING THE FUTURE and FRIENDS REUNITE.

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