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Cornerstone event center opens

By Paris Goodnight
Salisbury Post
The Rev. Bill Godair said his new event center at Cornerstone Church rivals anything churches in bigger cities use for worship.
He and his wife, Tina, led a black-tie event Friday night for about 300 to celebrate the center, which was used for the first time Easter Sunday. Some minor construction efforts continue, but most of the project is complete.
A jazz band and harpist were part of Friday evening’s entertainment at the 315 Webb Road location, which can handle any number of musical ensembles.
The 16,000-square-foot center, which has its own Web site (www.theeventcenter.net), can hold 700, plus another 200 to 300 in the atrium area. Bill Godair said he wanted to make it something the community beyond church members could use, so it wouldn’t sit empty Monday through Saturday. He plans on renting it to the public for things like weddings, political events and concerts. Representatives from Barack Obama’s team have already scouted the site as a possible campaign stop.
He said one high school plans its 2009 prom there, while a bank president pictured it as the perfect place to throw a birthday party.
He said Catawba College’s Keppel Auditorium would be the next closest setting for such gatherings.
He said the center will likely be appraised at about $2 million, although it didn’t cost quite that much to build. It has a lighting and sound system that cost $350,000 by itself and can take 10 people to operate.
Godair wants to pay off the center in five years, and he noted the church was able to pay for its original building 10 years earlier than originally planned.
“Our congregation is one of faithful givers and tithers,” he said.
Planning for the center started two years ago, with a groundbreaking last May.
“Everybody that walks in is amazed,” he said. “I’ve been to over 50 churches in Rowan, and this is just the most modern technology.”
He said the atrium area has 15 plasma TVs, some up to 50 inches wide, and the main seating area has four video screens that are even larger.
“It’s a big city church in Rowan,” Godair said.
And the services follow that same attitude, which is far removed from the hard pews and pipe organ music of more traditional churches. Godair is quick to add, though, “I’m kind of old-fashioned. Even I don’t agree with all the things that go on here.”
As nice as the new building is, it’s only part of a larger master plan for the 10-acre church site. Godair already has drawings for a bigger facility that would seat 1,500 as part of a five-year plan. The building they’re moving out of could seat 300, but that area is being transformed into a 150-seat auditorium with a youth center and more Sunday school space.
The new event center has a coffee bar on one side and a smoothie bar on the other for use when activities are going on at the church. A new pizza delivery business set up in one corner took a rezoning petition to get into operation, and it can pop out 140 pizzas an hour. It will operate 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. starting Thursday.
Tables with umbrellas are set up for seating areas around the outside.
Godair said Salisbury Millwork provided much of the interior woodwork, delivering the last products the Thursday before the tragic fire destroyed that business. He said only a few doors remained at the plant when the fire broke out.
Godair said membership in his church is about 40 percent white, 40 percent black and many nationalities make up the rest. He said 90 percent of his congregation is under age 50, which means they appreciate the feel of things ó fog machines, live bands ó beyond a traditional church setting. With more than 600 members, he said sometimes 150 teens will be involved.
“That says something. We understand our calling and who we’re trying to reach,” he said.
He started the church 21 years ago with a dozen people, five of them being Godairs. Now 600 people attend every weekend for a Saturday service in Spanish, an early Sunday service in English and the other Sunday service offering a mix.
The original building, which at 22,000 square feet is 6,000 feet bigger than the new event center, was the Security Bank operations center until 1996, when the church moved in. Godair said 150 new parking spots will go in behind the event center when a grassy area is paved over.
The church has 63 employees now, with a goal of being near 100 when the pizza operation and event center are completely up and running.
Contact the event center at 704-855-1218, ext. 5.

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