Steamboat Springs When Father Ernest Bayer first embarked on the Holy Name Catholic Church expansion project, he listened carefully to the advice offered by then-Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput.
"He said, 'Build it for the next 100 years,'" Bayer said Friday. "That kind of changed my perspective on the whole thing."
As framing wraps up on the 15,382-square-foot expansion, it is a little bit easier for the Steamboat Springs community to realize what kind of space the church thinks it can grow into.
"Before we started this construction project, we could squeeze in about 300 people to our worship space," Bayer said. "Our goal is to double that."
In a year, when the church expects to move into the new space, there will be seating for 630 people.
"We are expecting the town of Steamboat will continue to grow, and we are praying and hoping that the parish will grow with it," Bayer said.
It is not just Steamboat residents the church wants to accommodate. As a vacation destination, the five masses held at the church are filled with many visitors, especially during Christmas when the services are packed and overflowing.
"Christmas is peak for sure," Bayer said. "You don't have to be a church in Steamboat to experience that."
Construction started in July 2012 when three homes were removed to make room for the addition. Fox Construction is the general contractor, and 30 other subcontractors will be used during the project.
As with most construction projects, there have been challenges.
"It wound up being more expensive than we thought," Bayer said. "Construction costs went up."
Initially, church leaders estimated it would cost $6 million. Last summer, the estimate went up to $7.2 million.
Bayer said it currently is about an $8 million project. The church has been trying to build debt free. In order to do that, Bayer said they need to raise another $800,000.
The church also identified some ways it could save money. For example, they are holding off on finishing the basement, which eventually will be available as a community gathering space. They also scaled back the tile floor and cut out an elaborate baptismal font.
With framing complete, the insulation has been sprayed in and work is being done on the electrical and ventilation systems. A still-exposed area near the existing church is where the bells eventually will be installed. They hope to have the addition dried in before snow falls. In the next month, Bayer said work should start on the stone and wood exterior.
Local artist Greg Effinger with Creative Bearings is designing 64 stained glass windows that also will be built by local artists.
"The artwork is all home-grown," Bayer said.
It is easy to see how Holy Name will become a dominant fixture on Oak Street. Bayer acknowledged they have heard some criticisms about the size of the project and its height.
Bayer said the city's Planning Commission asked the church to add steeper pitches to the roof, which increased the height. The church also was designed to be tall and to take on the look of a mountain.
"God's holy mountain," Bayer said. "There are lots of references in the Bible about the 'Mountain of God.'"
Views will be unobstructed in the new high-ceiling worship space because it is being built without interior supports.
"We want to emphasize looking up toward heaven," Bayer said. "The big height represents the channel between heaven to Earth."
Masses have continued taking place despite the construction. It's been noisy at times, Bayer said, and they are not used to those types of distractions when praying.
"It's stressful and exciting and it's tiring, but it's invigorating," Bayer said. "I'll just be glad when it's done."