Lifepoint Church, which is now holding its services at Riverbend High School in Spotsylvania County, purchased the former Fredericksburg Ice Park facility in the Central Park Town Center late last week.
Executive Pastor Jeremy Pickwell said the church, which announced the news to its roughly 2,000-member congregation during this week’s Sunday services, will move into the facility over the next couple of years.
Lifepoint bought the 35,500-square-foot facility and 4.2-acre property from the Rappaport Cos., which owns or manages much of Central Park, including the Town Center portion. The sales price was $3.85 million.
Rappaport closed the Fredericksburg Ice Park in June 2009 after deciding it wasn’t producing enough income.
The company then leased the facility to Richmond-based American Indoor Karting, which ran a NASCAR-inspired go-kart racing track there for almost two years before closing in August 2011.
Lifepoint’s purchase means American Indoor Karting is off the hook for the years that remained on its lease.
Lifepoint started in the fall of 2005. Back then it had 50 members and met in the cafeteria of Spotsylvania’s Marshall Center. Membership growth has forced the church to move several times since then in Spotsylvania. It’s been at Parkside Elementary, Chancellor High and for the past two years at Riverbend.
Pickwell said the church, whose full-time office at Five Mile Centre Park in Spotsylvania is bursting at the seams, can access the Riverbend auditorium only on Sundays. Staff members arrive at 4 a.m. to set up for that morning’s three services. Small group meetings are held at members’ homes.
Lifepoint held a capital campaign that ended last year to raise money for its own facility. Pickwell has been looking for the right space for more than two years, and worked with Cushman & Wakefield|Thalhimer agent Jamie Scully.
Pickwell said the church looked seriously at three Spotsylvania properties: the former Gallahan’s Furniture building in the Lee’s Hill Commercial Center, a former door and window factory on Houser Drive and the former Northeast Foods bread factory. He also looked at the properties that formerly housed Giant and Ukrop’s grocery stores on State Route 3 in Spotsylvania.
Lifepoint has been working with Ohio-based design-build firm Cogun Inc., which helps churches with these types of expansions, as well as with Harrisonburg-based Blue Ridge Architects. Pickwell said the church liked the idea of bringing an unused property back to life rather than building from scratch. Lifepoint was open to buying or leasing.
Ultimately the church decided on the former ice park because of its central location, access to Interstate 95 and ample parking.
Pickwell said the roughly seven-month process of converting the space into a church might start later this year, but maybe not until 2013. The church will hold its services at Riverbend until its new facility is ready.
Rappaport agent Susan Bourgeois, who is working to attract users of offices ranging from 1,000 to 20,000 square feet at Central Park Town Center, said Lifepoint will be “an integral part of Central Park” and will bring customers during nontraditional retail hours.
Pickwell said he has yet to tackle the question of whether the church will seek an exemption from city real estate taxes. He added that he thinks the city and Central Park “will be delighted to have over 2,000 people converging on the development each weekend.”
BY BILL FREEHLING