At first glance, the addition at New Life Worship Center in Pinecroft looks more like a revival tent than a permanent place of worship.
But hopefully by Christmas, it will be a warm, comfortable sanctuary where members of the church will pray and praise God on Sundays.
Known as a Sprung Instant Structure, the 80- by 110-foot addition will have a seating capacity of 500, about twice the room of the church's present sanctuary.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich) The new sanctuary at New Life Worship Center in Pinecroft will connect to the present building where it opens into a welcome center to provide worshippers with a social area.
"It's a stressed membrane structure," said Dave Elliott, technical consultant for Sprung, based in Salt Lake City.
He said the structure is built to withstand winds of 90 mph, and its pitch is strong enough to handle a heavy snow. Although a tornado might rip one apart, Elliott said a tornado could rip apart any building.
"They are safe and last many years," he said.
The red brownstone structure with a cream top is constructed of extruded aluminum arches and two layers of fabric filled with insulation. The insulation has a R factor of 25 said Brian Weigand, superintendent of the project for RT Contracting of Altoona. He said homes usually have a R factor of about 19.
He said it is the first time the company has erected a Sprung Instant Structure.
"It's definitely different. It's a challenge," Weigand said.
The building may be the only one like it in the area. Weigand said he went to Lock Haven to look at one, and another one exists in Meadville.
The church decided to go with a Sprung Instant Structure after considering different types of buildings to accommodate its growth in attendance.
The Rev. Wayne Schaffer, pastor of the church, said about three years ago the average attendance was about 160 people, but now between 250 and 300 people regularly attend services in a sanctuary that seats about 260.
"We're crowded," he said.
Schaffer said after considering the addition in November 2008, the congregation approved the project in February 2009 despite a downturn in the economy.
"We needed the space," Schaffer said. We knew we couldn't continue to grow without having more room."
The Sprung Instant Structure was chosen because it is less expensive than a brick and mortar one and takes less time to erect.
The cost of the structure is $320,000, and it takes about 21 days to complete. However, the total project is expected to cost about $1.4 million and will take about a year to complete.
Site development, renovations to the present building and the base for the structure added to the cost.
To protect wetlands behind the church, the church has worked for two years with Antis Township to obtain permits and to develop drainage areas.
Schaffer said because the church only disturbed an acre of land, it was able to work with the township instead of the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The renovations to the current building began in January.
When the project is completed, the church will have additional parking, expanded restrooms and a welcome center where worshippers can enjoy coffee and breakfast items.
The former sanctuary will become a youth and children's facility for 100 teens who meet at the church Tuesday nights and 80 elementary students who meet there Wednesday nights. Junior church will be held there on Sundays.
The church has begun a capital campaign to pay for the costs and received a loan from the PennDel District of the Assemblies of God, the church's denomination.
"We know it's different," Schaffer said. "The 30-foot peak almost has a cathedral-like look. It has a wow factor."