A little rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of those who braved the elements Saturday morning for a ceremonial groundbreaking on a new Gig Harbor stake center for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Gig Harbor stake of the church includes all of Pierce County from the Narrows Bridge west, along with portions of Kitsap and Mason counties.
The warm fellowship among those in attendance under a large tent — not to mention hot beverages available — was more than enough to counter gray skies and the drops of moisture.
“We appreciate everyone coming here,” Wayne Washer, Gig Harbor Stake Presidency First Counselor, said to the assembled crowd, which included church members, as well as state Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, state legislative candidate Doug Richards, R-Olalla, and PenMet Parks Executive Director Terry Lee.
“This has taken a lot of years to come here,” Washer said before he introduced church member Alfred Gunn, who led the invocation for the day’s event.
“We’re thankful for the beautiful chapel that will be built here,” Gunn said during the brief opening prayer.
When it’s complete, the 23,000-square-foot building will serve nine congregations within the stake of about 3,300 members from Gig Harbor, Key Peninsula, Belfair, Allyn, Grapeview and Olalla.
Located on 20 acres at 12002 Peacock Hill Ave. NW, the property will include a recreation field, a large covered picnic facility and parking for nearly 300 motor vehicles. It will leave seven acres of land in its natural state.
Included in the design is a chapel that will seat more than 550 and a cultural hall that will seat 700 and can be used for indoor sporting events.
State-of-the-art media systems, a kitchen, multiple classrooms and a fully stocked library are all included in the plans.
“They are built to last,” building architect Chad Hoover said of the sturdy facilities of the church.
Substantial completion of the building — a typical meetinghouse of the church where Sunday worship and social gatherings during the week convene — is set for October 2013.
“Not this year, next year,” Hoover joked. “We’re not that good.”
Church members expect the facility will do a lot of good.
“So, having a new building in our area is very exciting,” Relief Society President Wendy Rawlings said.
“To me, they’re just little beacons of light,” she said of Latter-day Saint churches.
Gig Harbor Stake President Karl Fields agreed.
“This is a wonderful occasion and a significant event,” he said. “We see this as a wonderful opportunity for the community as well.”
Following the speeches, church officials, politicians and other community members donned hard hats and picked up golden shovels to turn ceremonial dirt.
Reporter Brett Davis can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @gateway_brett.