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First Baptist Church broke ground this week on a $2.3 million capital improvement campaign.

SYLACAUGA -- First Baptist Church broke ground this week on a $2.3 million capital improvement campaign.

Senior Pastor Dr. Rick Patrick described the effort as “our most significant construction project in over 30 years.”

The addition will feature a grand entrance, north lobby, children’s lobby, courtyard playground, three classrooms, new air conditioner in the sanctuary and new drainage infrastructure, said Larry Morrison, minister of education and administration.

The new grand entrance will be the main entry into the church and will face Fort Williams Street.

A welcome center in the entrance lobby will be staffed, and individuals will then be directed to where they are going.

The grand entrance will also feature a drive-thru for people to get out. They will enter there, with the welcome center in the main lobby.

The minister said the air conditioning upgrade for the sanctuary has been needed for two years, but the decision was made to hold off replacing it until the construction project.

“This is the second year the air conditioning has been at only one-half efficiency,” he said.

The drainage infrastructure will correct a flooding problem that has overflowed into the city’s drains. Retention ponds will be placed underground to upgrade this problem, Morrison said.

Plans for the project started four years ago. The congregation adopted a master plan developed by David Payne of Payne Design Group Architects in Montgomery. This phase accomplishes a portion of the work, while postponing additional projects to a future phase.

The general contractor is Bruce Brooks of M.J. Brooks & Son Construction of Sylacauga.

According to a press release from the church, Brooks is a faithful deacon and Sunday school teacher at First Baptist. His father was the builder when the church constructed its Christian Life Center more than three decades ago.

Church members have supported the building program enthusiastically, the release said.

The Forward In Faith Campaign has raised more than $530,000 in donations so far. Cadence Bank in Sylacauga is financing the project.

Morrison said the project is going to take from 10 months to a year to complete. At that time, the church plans on having a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

First Baptist Church has a history that dates back to 1833. After years of moving around to different locations starting in Alpine, the church moved to Sylacauga, where a sanctuary was built on the southwest corner of the property.

As the church grew, a new sanctuary was built on the current site. The last construction project was the Christian Life Center in 1988.

Morrison said the church has 1,700 members, of which 1,100 live locally.

He said the church attendance has increased over the last several months, and the emphasis this year has been on growth.

“We are inviting people to come to our church to share the message of Jesus,” Morrison said.

Church services on Sunday start with Bible study at 9:40 a.m.; worship, 11; children’s church, 5 p.m.; and evening, 6.