For sixty years, this building was a bowling alley, but today was its first day as a church. I’ve blogged about a several churches in converted facilities. Some are more successful than others. Grace Church of Waco seems to be a great fit for this adapted reuse location.
I stopped by in the afternoon at the suggestion of a member of nearby Holy Spirit Episcopal Church, (thanks for the tip!). She saw that the old Lake Air Lanes had been bought by a church and read in the paper that the first service was this Sunday. The festivities were over when I arrived, but I noticed a few people still inside. Pastor Jay Mathis welcomed me at the door and graciously offered to give me a tour.
Any time we take on an adaptive reuse, we try to work creatively with existing spaces and building elements, adding or changing selectively to get the most bang for the buck. This is the first time I’ve seen a bowling alley converted to a church and Pastor Jay pointed out several interesting challenges.
Bowling alleys don’t have many windows, so the church punched new openings in the outside walls to bring light into the foyer and the children’s wing. On the outside, the windows break up the long brick wall and wide roof overhang. Otherwise, the front façade and roof were simply repaired and repainted. The large sign panel has been covered with stained wood to complement the muted colors. Fixed letters are coming, but for opening day, they used a temporary sign.
One of the most creative solutions was the use of the level change inside. Like many bowling alleys, Lake Air Lanes had a lower level for the lanes. To turn a two-foot drop into something positive, the church filled in a portion to expand the narrow upper level into a large foyer. Church members proceed down a gradual ramp to the lower auditorium level. Inside the auditorium, the platform is raised. That places the platform nearly at the same level as the offices and support spaces behind. And that is a big help for the choir and service leaders as they prepare and participate in activities for the service.
The ministry had been worshipping in a school for most of its four-year life. With a contemporary interior and efficient use of space, Pastor Jay was deservedly proud of the location. “And we had extra space leftover,” he explained, “so we’re leaving it flexible so we can adjust as we grow.”
Grace Church, 4610 Bosque Blvd, Waco, TX 76710