Colo. churches change secular to sacred

Ex-nightclub, theater being transformed into places of worship

Pastor Paul Trimble and the Bent Tree Church remodeled a former nightclub to use as their church in Loveland. Enlarge photo

Jenny Sparks/Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald

Pastor Paul Trimble and the Bent Tree Church remodeled a former nightclub to use as their church in Loveland.

LOVELAND (AP) – Two Loveland churches are working to transform the secular into the sacred.

Volunteers and staff members from Bent Tree Church were pulling out the bar and dismantling the beer pong area at a former nightclub.

Gone also are the mirrors and gold trim from the all-black walls, 30 couches, about 300 empty liquor bottles and countless shot glasses, said the Rev. Paul Trimble, pastor of Bent Tree.

Trimble announced to his congregation that the church had leased the building. It conducted its first worship service there last Sunday.

Another Loveland congregation, Foundations Church, also is in the planning stages for the remodel of a local entertainment venue, the former MetroLux 12-screen theater.

In December 2011, 15 members of Foundations bought the long-vacant building at 1380 N. Denver Ave. for the church to use as its new home. The church is in the process of buying it from the members, according to elder board member Scott Mead.

“We’re trying to get our arms around what it’s going to cost to move in,” said Mead, who added that the church has hired an architect and a general contractor.

A capital campaign launched last spring has a preliminary goal of $2 million, he said.

On a typical weekend, the church’s three services draw about 1,350 adults and another 300-plus children, Mead said. Phase 1 of the renovation would incorporate a seating capacity of 1,100.

“We’ve always seen that old MetroLux building as a bit of an eyesore,” Mead said. “If there was a way to use that building for good in the community, wouldn’t that be a good and God-honoring thing?”

The two nondenominational Loveland churches are less than 3 years old and were formed by pastors who previously had served at Loveland’s Crossroads Church. And both have been renting space in high schools in Loveland for their weekly services.

“This will allow us to do ministry seven days a week there,” said Trimble, whose Bent Tree had been conducting its worship services at Loveland High School and leasing an office in Palmer Gardens. The rent on the new building is less than the cost of the other two spaces, he said.

The permanent location will serve as a launch pad for Bent Tree, Trimble said, where the goal is to send teams of pastors and members to plant new Bent Trees in Fort Collins, Greeley, Longmont and other Front Range cities.

“Our long-term goal is to grow and multiply the church – multiple locations, one church,” he said. “I’d love to be a megachurch in a lot of small locations.”

About 300 people call Bent Tree their church home, Trimble said.

The building just north of the city limits has a long and checkered history as an entertainment venue.

The facility, built in 1970, was home to Western States Construction until 1995, when Drake resident Jerry Shaffer opened the White Buffalo Saloon and Dancehall there as a place for his Jerry Shaffer and the Darn Thirsty Cowboys to perform. The country band had traveled the country, often opening for national acts, but the members wanted to come home, Shaffer said in a previous interview.

Shaffer struggled with noise complaints from his neighbors and closed the White Buffalo in 2006. Since then, it has housed the Yukon, Daisy Duke’s, Phaze nightclub and then Phaze Event Center and most recently Inferno Event Center.

Through the years, it has hosted nationally known bands, local acts and charity fundraisers, in addition to burlesque shows, male revues, bikini Jell-O wrestling and cage fights.

Trimble said Shaffer and his wife, Eileen, still own the building. “They leased it out to a series of bar owners, and it became pretty unsavory,” Trimble said.

Conveniently, the Shaffers attend Bent Tree. “They reached out to us and said, ‘We would really like for this to be a church if possible,’” he said.

Trimble said he hopes to someday buy the building and make it the church’s permanent home.

He said rather than be put off by the building’s past, “it made me want to do it.”

“The idea is taking a place that the enemy used, in our opinion, to destroy individuals and families, and we would hope that God can use this as a place to reunite families and where people can find hope and love and purpose, and find Jesus,” Trimble said.