In 2007, under the leadership of Pastor Steven Gaines, Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., launched a new outreach campaign called Bellevue Loves Memphis. The campaign helped solicit love offerings to fund projects that include the Christian Mobile Dental Clinic and the new student center, The Vue.
The concept behind The Vue was to create a centrally located venue where college students could feel comfortable hanging out, studying, watching movies, playing Wii, billiards or ping pong, or enjoying one of the many events held each week at the 10,000-square-foot, multi-level, multipurpose venue.
The building designs were put in place by Memphis, Tenn.-based Fleming/Associates/Architects (F/A/A), while construction was completed by local Montgomery Martin Inc., general contractors. A variety of unique finishes, colors and patterns add visual excitement to the space.
F/A/A Project Manager Richard Wiggs says, “When it came to finish and furniture selection, they really pulled out all the stops. There are some things I’ve never seen in other projects that go so well together in this space. We had to make it stand out among all the other entertainment options college students have at their disposal—make the space feel like someplace they’d want to be.”
The first floor of The Vue houses a large multipurpose area designed for performances, movie nights, gatherings and worship services, a coffee bar, study areas, a game room, office space and a welcome desk at the entrance. The second floor has a full-service kitchen and student residences. The basement has office space, a conference room, smaller study areas and additional student residences. The conference room features large windows that look out onto the main downstairs hallway. One of the objectives was to create a sense of wide-open spaces for security reasons, which was also the impetus behind the desk at the main entrance to the venue.
Beyond the building’s amenities, which include wireless access throughout, College Pastor Travis Moore says it is the special events, publicized through flyers distributed on various local college campuses, Facebook postings and word-of-mouth, that draw students to the space. “We looked at different ways to foster community,” he says. “We started with the coffee bar concept, but have found out since we’ve been here that this generation is very much an event-driven generation.”
The Vue is open weekdays from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. to fit students’ busy schedules. On Friday nights, the church opens the building to area fraternities and sororities for special events, which Moore says is a good way to draw students who wouldn’t ordinarily visit a worship center. “We don’t shy away from the Gospel here,” he says. “We let the students know we’re part of Bellevue Baptist Church and our expectations from them in terms of what we do and don’t allow. They’ve all respected that.”
Throughout the week, The Vue also hosts movie night, Bible study classes, and a very well-attended Wednesday night worship service. The demographic for The Vue’s Wednesday night worship is very different, Moore says, from the people the church sees for Sunday morning worship on the main campus at 2000 Appling Road.
He tells one story of a student who found The Vue this semester and, as a result, renewed his relationship with Jesus Christ. “One of our young men grew up in church, but in the last four or five years, was not welcoming the Lord. He finally recognized his life was headed on a path that he didn’t like,” Moore relates. “One of his classmates invited him to check out our Wednesday night worship, and [he] has just thrown himself wholeheartedly into Bible study and his personal walk to the Lord. We’re seeing an incredible transformation take place in his life.”
Location, Location, Location
It is undoubtedly the people, events, and worship that make The Vue a success, but the location is another key component in the center’s growth. The building is located in a shopping center called Poplar Plaza, 4.4 miles from Rhodes College and close to Southwest Community College and the Memphis campus of the University of Tennessee. This central location sends the message, according to Moore, that The Vue is not associated with any particular college, but that all students are welcome.
When the church found this location, the leaders knew it was perfect, but it did pose some construction challenges. Wiggs explains, “We went from retail space to a space that was going to house hundreds of people for group functions. We did slab reinforcement to accommodate the high live loads.”
The engineering firm used carbon fiber wraps set in epoxy to reinforce the concrete slab and the columns. This was a worthwhile expense because of the building’s desirable location. “The space was an opportunity too good for the church to pass up despite the additional cost,” Wiggs says.
The building, constructed in the 1950s, started life as three separate bays. When the contractors pulled down the walls between the bays, they noticed that one floor was seven inches lower than the other two. “A seven-inch grade change could be a killer in a project,” Wiggs says, “because you’d have to do ramps and stairs.”
Instead, the architect turned it into a design feature, adding a raised platform, two steps up, around the perimeter of the multipurpose room. The steps are made from GeoFoam with concrete poured on top, a more cost-effective solution than poured-in concrete. The back of the house has a more gradual, sloped transition to compensate for the seven-inch discrepancy in floor heights.
Another challenge was the low ceilings in the basement, which, according to Ryan Anderson, a project manager for Montgomery Martin at the time of construction, required flexibility in re-sizing ductwork and changing lighting layouts to achieve the greatest ceiling height possible on the lower level.
A key aspect of the construction project—and an important part of The Vue’s outreach efforts—is the audiovisual system throughout the venue, designed and installed by Memphis Audio. The systems include Panasonic projectors, a Da-Lite dropdown screen, and high-definition Panasonic and Viewsonic flat screens. Distributed sound throughout the venue and surround sound in the multipurpose room is accomplished with JBL speakers, controlled by an AMX system. Chief mounts are used for audio and video components throughout.
“When we do movie nights,” Moore reports, “it’s as good, if not better, than going to the local cinema.”
The systems also contribute to the Wednesday night, high-energy worship, an experience Moore says students have come to expect. “It’s both a blessing and a burden,” he reports. “Whatever we do, we have to do it well, because that’s what today’s students are accustomed to when it comes to technology.”
In closing, Moore reiterates how blessed he feels to have this venue for outreach. “We are thankful our church has the heart to want to reach this generation. At this point in their lives, college students are not able to give back monetarily, but they are the next generation of leaders,” Moore says. “It’s very disarming when college students walk into this venue, sandwiched between a Kroger and a Cici’s Pizza. It’s allowed us to reach people who, for whatever reason, may not walk through the doors at 2000 Appling Road.”