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Zion Tabernacle is set to purchase and remodel Celebrations Banquet and Conference Center, 3437 W. Sycamore St.

Zion Tabernacle is set to purchase and remodel Celebrations Banquet and Conference Center to use as its new church after the cost of a planned project to build a new facility skyrocketed due to the pandemic.

Pastor Bobby Carter said the congregation purchased 17.5 acres at the corner of Sycamore Street and Malfalfa Road to construct a new church after the congregation grew significantly in the last few years at their current building, located at 404 W. Jefferson St.

Carter said the original cost estimate on the facility was around $1.8 million. However, a national lumber shortage and the ripple effects of the pandemic pushed the cost of the project up by $300,000 and outside the church’s budget.

“That was a pretty big blow to us, so we had to start looking at other options,” he said.

That led Carter to call the owners of Celebrations, located at 3437 W. Sycamore St. and adjacent to the church’s 17.5 acres, to see if they had any interest in selling their facility. As it turned out, they did as part of their upcoming retirement.

Now, Zion Tabernacle is set to acquire the building and add on a new sanctuary that will seat around 450 people, which is double the church’s current capacity.

Carter said Celebrations will hold its last event in October. After that, the church will move into the facility and then break ground on building the new sanctuary, which will take around six months to complete. Once it’s finished, the congregation will use the sanctuary while remodeling the main facility.

He said the project will cost around $1 million and save the church another $1 million from what they would have paid to build a new facility.

“It kind of worked out for everyone,” Carter said. “We really needed something to happen, and it all happened really quickly. It’s going to look like a brand new facility, and we’re excited about all the possibilities.”

The move will also come with a name change for the church, which started in the 1920s when residents started holding prayer meetings in their houses. Carter said after the move they will be called Mercy Church.

“It’s a pretty cool story of how we’re still around,” he said. “We’re keeping all that heritage, while also moving into the future. It’s a new location, new name, but same vision.”

Carter said they also plan to turn the 17.5 acres by the new church into a kind of community space by building park pavilions, volleyball courts and other facilities there. The church has already held an Easter egg hunt and fireworks for the community.

“We really just want to make that 17.5 acres an area for our community,” he said.

The project on Tuesday received the first approval from the city after the property was rezoned from a commercial to an institutional parcel. The Kokomo City Council will make the final vote at an upcoming meeting.

Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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Carson Gerber is a reporter for the Kokomo Tribune and can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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