City in Florida Offers $6 Million to Megachurch for New Community Rec Center Site

The developing city of Clermont in Lake County, Fla., whose residents have called for more recreational opportunities, offered a megachurch $6.3 million to buy its 67,000-square-foot building to convert it into a rec center.

The city's offer to Celebration of Praise Church comes at an opportune time since the congregation will not be able to pay off its upcoming $7 million "balloon" payment on its mortgage. Clermont officials say the opportunity suits the city as well since its 30,000-member burgeoning community lacks amenities that the church already has.

"If we went out [there] and had to build that facility today we would be paying more for a facility like that," said Darren Gray, Clermont city manager, according to Orlando-based ABC affiliate,

The church itself sits on nearly 50-acres of land and includes a 1,400-seat auditorium, an Olympic-size swimming pool, indoor basketball courts and a gymnasium. In addition, the worship building is surrounded by 30 undeveloped acres which the city could use for additional recreational purposes. 

"They wanted a community theater, they wanted a performing arts center. Just stuff that residents can enjoy in their own community," Gray said, referring to Claremont's resident's requests.

Celebration of Praise Church has been listed on the market for about a year now; however, Claremont officials recently began to consider the site after residents also suggested a splash park for kids, a zip line and a zoo.

Since its inception over a decade ago, the church has invested more than $9 million in the site, reports Orlando Sentinel. In 2002, the land was purchased for $4 million and then an additional $5 million was invested into the house of worship the following year. In addition, $200,000 was spent on the church's pool and spa in 2004.

Now, the church is worth about $5.1 million according to Lake County property records.

Although the multimillion sale between the city and the 1,200-member megachurch has yet to occur, which depends on property appraisals and inspections, Gray has already envisioned the possible changes that the city can make to the church site for the community's sake.

"The sky's the limit with the things we could do there," Gray said, according to Orlando Sentinel.

Even though Pastor Chris Dutruch agrees and says the church acquisition will benefit the community, he says the change that will come as a result of the sale will not be easy.

"We've prayed that God would help us move forward through this and show us a way to keep our church family together while making Clermont better. We see this as a partnership with the city, and a good thing," Dutruch said, reports Orlando Sentinel.