EAST MANATEE -- Bayside Community Church, which as recently as 2009 was meeting in leased space at Freedom Elementary School, is continuing its meteoric growth with a major expansion of its campus at 15800 State Road 64 E.
Planned is a 73,347-square-foot expansion, including a 2,500-seat auditorium with a flexible floor, tiered seating and an elevated performance platform.
"These areas are supported by a broadcast suite, performer's 'Green Room' and lounge, living room, mother's room, volunteer offices, café and future commercial kitchen. The Children's area includes a lagoon-themed play area and 10 new classrooms continuing Bayside's commitment to the youth of the community," according to a press release from architect Fawley Bryant.
When Bayside, a nondenominational congregation, opened its multi-million dollar East Manatee campus in 2010, the 55,000-square-foot facility had been scaled down from an originally planned 100,000 square feet due to the plummeting economy.
The church is known for its outreach to families. It has randomly given away gas cards, collected 1,000 backpacks for schoolchildren, trucked in 25 tons of snow for a Christmas holiday event and more.
Even before holding its first service in 2002, the church spent a chunk of its $75,000 seed money on school supplies for children, to help ingrain the idea of "community service in the church's DNA," said Pastor Randy Bezet.
"When people come to our church, we want them to feel the sense of community. That they belong, that they are safe. That this is where they are supposed to be. The other side is that Bayside is not just about what's happening in our church services but is part of the community and is adding value to the community," Bezet said.
In addition to the 6,000 people who attend services, conducted in shifts, at Bayside on Sunday mornings, church members also go into the community every week to reach another 500 through activities as diverse as cooking breakfast and picking up trash in neighborhoods, Bezet said.
"There is no magic formula, but I feel like God is doing something special at Bayside," he said.
"We are a Bible-based church. If we are going to be like Christ, there is no better way than to go into the community and try to make it better," Bezet said.
Bayside also has services in West Bradenton, meeting in the Bradenton Christian School auditorium, and in Sarasota off Fruitville Road, east of Interstate 75.
Site work has already started for the expansion. Completion is forecast for December 2014, Bezet said.
Construction manager is Willis A. Smith Construction.
"There was definitely excitement from the congregation" when the expansion proposal was introduced, said Dave Neiman, the church's executive director of administration.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or through Twitter: @jajones1