LAKEWOOD RANCH -- A mega-church from Branson, Mo., has quietly paid millions to snap up an 82,000-square-foot facility on 10 acres in Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park and an equestrian estate nearby at Sarasota Polo Club.
Faith Life Church paid $6.4 million for the properties, according to the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s website.
In July, the church paid $2.2 million for the seven-bedroom, seven-bath home with horse stables at 7811 Cow Camp Lane.
A year earlier, the church paid $4.2 million for the former Teleflex property at 6980 Professional Parkway E.
In October, the Herald reported that Winslow LifeRaft, manufacturer of life rafts for corporate boats and airplanes, had sought to move into the Teleflex property but lost out to an undisclosed buyer.
In response to Herald inquiries, a member of Faith Life Church working at Lakewood Ranch said in a brief phone conversation only that the former Teleflex property is undergoing renovations for a family-oriented church.
On Tuesday, a number of workers could be seen on the property, which has been designated as a construction zone.
Founders of the church, Keith and Phyllis Moore, started the Branson church almost a decade ago. They moved from Broken Arrow, Okla., to Branson, where they purchased and renovated the Yellow Ribbon Theater and opened the doors for an evening service March 29, 2002, according to the church website.
“Although they had no congregation, Faith Life Church first opened its doors for the evening service on Friday, March 29, 2002, according to the church website.
Hundreds attended services that Resurrection Sunday, the website said.
A call to church headquarters in Branson for an interview with the Moores was not immediately returned Tuesday.
Faith Life Church began airing its Friday and Sunday services via the Internet in October 2004.
“The expansion continued on July 31, 2005, when the first FLC-TV broadcast was aired locally. In the months and years that followed, we began airing on several additional TV stations and networks across the country and worldwide,” the church website said.
In 2007, the church moved into a larger space, the former Remington Theatre, on the strip in Branson, according to the website.
It was unclear why the Moores selected Lakewood Ranch for the expansion plans.
But the Faith Life Church Sarasota website says, “After a couple of years seeking the Lord, they concluded they are to start a sister church in Sarasota.”
The website describes the property as “one of the prime locations” in the area.
“Most of it is currently an open warehouse. It’s a large, clean, quality construction, but there’s going to be major renovations involved with converting the facility into the church building,” the website said.
To pay for the balance of the building and renovations, the church has started a fundraiser called “Paid N Full.”
“When 2,500 seats are ‘paid for’ at $2,000/seat, the project will be completed,” the website said.
Faith Life Church has also leased 40,250 square feet of space at 140 W. Airport Ave., Venice, from the City of Venice.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.