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Arizona Church Adds New Spaces, Expansive Tech to Campus

Among the recent upgrades largely finished at the Tucson area church prior to Easter, included an 18-foot wide Absen LED video wall in the one of the church’s new spaces, paired with 23,000 square feet in new space across the campus.

ORO VALLEY, Ariz. – For Oro Valley Church of the Nazarene, located in the Tucson area, the positives that have come from the recent significant growth to its congregation, moved it to go ahead with a series of improvements, as well as adding space to the church’s campus.

Among its recent upgrades that were largely finished prior to Easter, featured the installation of an 18-foot wide Absen Acclaim LED video wall in the one of the church’s new spaces. The total new space on the campus as part of the project amounts to an additional 23,000 square feet. Eight classrooms and three rooms for a special needs ministry - 11 rooms in all - were added. Other parts of the project included the kids’ sanctuary, a large gathering space, info desk, and café area.

Over a four-week period, the new tech was also installed on the church campus, with Shawn Teague, the church’s tech director, indicating that a few minor aspects are still being worked out. Aside from the Absen wall, the church also installed a K-array Pinnacle-KR102 I portable speaker system (mounted to the outside edges of the LED wall), which Teague added were installed to be “almost invisible to the room.” Other equipment additions include a Yamaha TF5 audio mixing console, and digital signage in the new space, which includes a café area, named Blessed Grounds, with two info screens. In addition, there are three info screens set up at the church’s info desk.

In deciding on the Absen LED wall, Teague indicated that there initially had been some thought to install projectors in its new overflow space. With concern about ambient light in the space, though, Teague wanted to show that the LED wall would be the right solution. He coordinated bringing in a demo unit of a 20,000-lumen projector, projecting an 18-foot image, and side-by-side, having a small demo setup of a six-foot Absen LED wall. “I brought in all of the church’s decisionmakers, and everyone said, ‘Oh, we can’t do a projector.’ It was such a dramatic difference, even on a day when it was overcast, when we lost a lot of ambient light.”

In addition, the K-array system was also approved following an on-site demo, after which it was determined to have the K-arrays as part of a portable setup. The system will do “double duty, with a jazz big band doing Christmas gigs at the mall,” along with being paired with the Absen LED wall, explained Teague.

With the added tech throughout the church’s campus, though, Teague emphasized that the new equipment “has to be easy to use. We rolled out just about 24,000 additional square feet, and almost every room has tech in it. It has to be very approachable by Sunday School teachers, to town officials.”

Even with the extensive technology that has been incorporated into the expanded campus at Oro Valley, Teague talked about how initially the proposed budget for the initial media design had been at a higher number, and after budget discussions, ended up at around $130,000. Even with cuts to the original plan, Teague planned to implement an infrastructure to allow for seamless, future additions. “There is conduit and power in place, along with signal cabling, so adding (new gear later) will be easier,” explained Teague. “It is just buying the rest of the gear to plug in.”

After the budget was finalized for the project, Teague said it was imperative to remain flexible. “We have had requests, to do things that I am not set up to do, but I had to figure how to make that stuff happen.” For example, on a request to have a full band in the new overflow space, he said, “through forethought, I had the jacks in the wall, the wiring in place, after which we had to borrow equipment elsewhere on the campus” for a successful performance.

In elaborating about future planning, he said, “Don’t paint yourself into a corner. It’s so easy to have (an installer) put in wiring now, in a place where you might use wiring, instead of having to cut sheetrock to install wiring afterwards. Design big. Plan big. And then pull out chunks of functionality to save money, those that you can always add back in.”

While churches oftentimes will have an integrator handle the design and install of new equipment, Teague did most of the work in-house, in part because prior to arriving at Oro Valley three years ago, he’d worked for a system integrator, AV Design Solutions, based in Norman, Oklahoma. With that experience, he completed the system design in-house. Even after taking that step, he still partnered with AV Design Solutions to purchase the necessary equipment and wiring.

Other savings were achieved by also doing the installation in-house with a small volunteer team. Teague admitted, though, “By doing that, it lengthened our install time by quite a bit,” from a likely span of two weeks, if the work had been done by the integration firm, to about double that time.

Even with the longer timeline, Teague emphasized that no services were delayed or cancelled during the project, adding that “no part of our weekend (in the midst of the work) could be interrupted by this.”

While the work did take a couple weeks longer by being done in-house, Teague was still able to complete the church’s new overflow space before the Easter deadline, albeit right down to the wire, adding, “We got our temporary permit of occupancy the Thursday before Easter.”

By being able to use the new overflow space for Easter, Teague said, “It was great, since at our best attended service, we had 300 people watching in that space watching the (Absen) LED wall,” in the area now comprised of couches, coffee tables, and an information desk.

To make that space functional, the Oro Valley Church of the Nazarene tech director noted adding a SoundCraft Ui24r, which was reviewed by Worship Tech Director last May. “We wanted this space to be as versatile as possible. When we have a small worship set in this space, we plop (the Soundcraft) in, working with the wireless mic system.”

That additional space was imperative, since the congregation had reached maximum capacity in its sanctuary with its recent growth. Just last year, without the new space, a room set up for Easter services had congregants watching a small television from folding chairs.

For the church that celebrated its 40-year anniversary about six months ago, the expansion was necessary, as it averaged about 1,000 congregants spread across its Sunday services a couple of years ago, to nearly 1,800 now. The current numbers also include the church’s growing streaming audience, which averages a couple hundred each week, paired with those who attend either of their two contemporary blended services and one contemporary modern service each Sunday.

With this new overflow space, Teague relayed a story about how it could be helpful to many within its congregation.

“I was chatting with a guy who was watching the LED wall during the (Easter) service. He can now participate in church, without having to stand, as he’s dealing with back issues, where he can now watch on a couch,” Teague said.

Over the last couple of weeks since the overflow space began being used, Teague admitted, that “there have been some tweaks, but it is functional.” As impressive as the Absen LED wall has been from the outset, the church was waiting for a couple of weeks for an 18-foot wide high contrast, ambient light rejecting projection screen, slated for its kids’ room, which originally was shipped to the church with the wrong style of frame.

As with any project this size, there are issues that crop up along the way, in the midst of an install. For instance, Teague also noted learning that a Jands five-fader lighting console installed in the large kids’ worship room, was conflicting with the room's DMX-controllable lighting switches, since the console “is always sending out DMX.” While the manufacturer is aware of the issue, the church finds itself in a holding pattern, therefore not using the Jands system, until a workaround is found.

In the midst of its growth, the Tucson-area church is pulling from a large contingent of retirees who are moving to the area, noted Teague. For a church interested in building for the future, though, “we are trying to find their kids and their grandkids,” explaining why the church worked so hard in adding the new kids’ facility. As Teague noted, “We needed a place to put a whole bunch of kids, and it was a case of ‘if you build it, they will come.’”

During the grand opening of that kids’ space during the weekend after Easter, the community certainly came out, as an estimated 1,500 people were on hand. “We had some of the town leadership here for that grand opening, and the mayor’s office, and police and fire. That all gets into the whole idea of getting more people on our campus, and let God take it from there,” he added.

Since the rollout of the new space and equipment, the overall impression from those in the congregation and even parents dropping children off, “has been unbelievable,” noted Teague. "People look at the LED wall, hear our band on the LED wall … it makes a huge impression, it shows that this church is dedicated to the kids and to the growth of the church.”

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