The Flag Building (left), the Fort Harrison (center) and the Oak Cove (right), individually, were massive projects by the Church of Scientology that serve the community in a multitude of ways. Now the Church is planning its next project.
The November 2013 announcement by Mr. David Miscavige, the ecclesiastic leader of the Scientology religion, that the religion’s Cathedral, the Flag Building, was completed, heralded another monumental project for the Scientology religion—the opening of L. Ron Hubbard Hall. In fact, Mr. Miscavige made that 2013 announcement inside a 40,000-square-foot marquee to some 10,000 Scientologists on the very ground upon which the 166,000-square-foot hall will be built.
Quite apart from what it means for Scientologists and the fulfillment of a 40-year vision by the Scientology Founder to reawaken the perceptic powers of a spiritual being, the 377,000-square-foot 21st-century Flag Building infused 1,800 jobs and $282,000,000 into the Clearwater economy.
The Flag Building followed the 2009 restoration of the historic Fort Harrison and 2007 renovation of the Oak Cove; each successive construction project bringing growth to the Church of Scientology as well as to the Clearwater economy.
The iconic Fort Harrison Hotel opened in 1926 making it nearly a century old. Therefore, it was clear to the Church that the building needed to be brought up to modern-day standards. The Church, however, wanted to maintain the historical aspects of the beloved icon. It was done with 350 local construction workers (over one million man hours), 400 sheets of plans and 500 pages of construction specifications, 100,000 square feet of carpet, 100 miles of wire for power and communication systems and 8,000 feet of molding.
It resulted in centralized air conditioning, new plumbing and wiring, eco-friendly insulation and
Finer details incorporated into the restoration project have cemented the 1920s feel, look and luxury of the magnificent building.
The stone flooring in the lobby was restored to its original checker pattern with a combination of brown St. Laurent marble from the South of France and Crema Marfil from Alicante, Spain. The steps of the Crystal Ballroom leading to the 11th-floor mezzanine and in the ballroom foyer contain yet another type of Spanish marble.
The Crystal Ballroom chandelier is 400 pounds of 11,600 hand-cut and hand-polished crystal pieces lit by 52 lamps. Columns in the main Fort Harrison lobby are finished in gold leaf, add to that a total of 15,000 linear feet of gold leaf trim on the ceilings and walls of the building’s public areas.
In all, the Fort Harrison religious retreat consists of 220 rooms, 3 restaurants offering different cuisines, a fitness center, swimming pool, poolside pavilion, tea room, conference center, two board rooms, auditorium with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment and ballroom.
The Church provides the board rooms, auditorium and ballroom to like-minded nonprofits for meetings and events at no charge.
THE FORT HARRISON: A COMMUNITY HUB
The Fort Harrison Auditorium sparkled with lively conversation. Guests from across Tampa Bay had gathered to enjoy an evening of entertainment and good company in the name of a good cause. The nonprofit Sunscreen Film Festival “Six till Sunscreen” fundraiser was opened with all the necessary show and pizzazz by Pinellas County Film Commissioner Tony Armer and fellow Sunscreen Film Festival board members.
However, such events are not just held in the Auditorium. An elevator ride to the 10th floor brings you to the Fort Harrison’s Crystal Ballroom, that is however, as long as you don’t get distracted by the breathtaking view of the water surrounding the Clearwater Memorial Causeway from the Fort Harrison’s expansive patio.
The American Culinary Federation Team USA is one of many repeat guests to use the Crystal Ballroom. The Church’s Fort Harrison chefs opened up their kitchens to work side by side with some of the best cuisine artists in the world and blend their culinary genius to cook for a cause. Most recently, these chefs joined forces to serve up deluxe fare alongside a sweet trumpet serenade and a classic ’50s dance performance. But beyond all things aesthetically pleasing, this night served a higher purpose. Funds raised from the tickets went to a nonprofit that is instrumental in laying a foundation for children of the community—the Pinellas Sheriff’s Police Athletic League Lealman.
Opening our spaces to many nonprofits free of charge for their events gives them the extra boost they need to be able to achieve their goals.
“Lending a hand and partnering with community groups to make a difference is a big deal to us,” said Lisa Mansell, public affairs director of the Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization. “With many nonprofits, opening our spaces to them to hold their events free of charge gives them that extra boost they need to be able to achieve their goals.”
Serving as a hub for charity, culture and arts, the Fort Harrison has been the heart and home to Tampa Bay community events since its first opening in 1926. The Church of Scientology carries on this tradition by opening its doors to charities to provide them with a venue where they can forward their messages for social betterment.
Community goals achieved through such partnerships have become commonplace at the Fort Harrison. From hosting the color guard escorting the star-spangled banner to honor those who served at the annual Purple Heart Day Banquet to the annual Love and Help Children Awards Banquet, the Fort Harrison hosted 70 different community events with 44 different charities in 2019.
One such charity was Children with a Vision Inc., who the Church hosted for their 6th Annual Grandmother’s Gala. “My grandmother was always a positive influence in my life,” said Tonya Lewis, founder of the nonprofit. “This is a way to give back.”
“I’m so honored to be here,” said one 90-year-old grandmother and matriarch upon receiving her award on stage that day. She teared up when noting the crowd had sung to her on stage, “That was the highlight of my night, and I know I will be back next year.”
Among the esteemed guests in attendance that evening was former Tampa police chief, and now Mayor Jane Castor, who addressed the crowd of hundreds on the importance of family and community.
In doing so, she joined many community leaders before her who have stood together with nonprofits, community groups, the Church of Scientology and other like-minded individuals to forward a message of empowerment and betterment in the community.
But what is a modern-day movement to enhance the community without good networking? Providing a place for charities to come together and get the tools they personally need to get on their feet and expand, the Tampa Bay Charity Coalition also meets bimonthly in the Fort Harrison. Sponsored by the Church of Scientology, the coalition has grown to over 200 participants, each seeking to work together with their peers to fortify the impact they have on the local community.
“To be a good organization you have to put your heads together,” said Charity Coalition member Pastor Mary Rieves.
“We go all over and service any community that needs help.”
—Pastor Shonda Obi, ObiOne Global Ministries
Rieves founded her nonprofit, Teaching Another Generation In Need (TAG-IN), to help youth from low-income families and the foster care system. Through her partnerships with fellow Charity Coalition members Dr. Veronica Walters, founder and president of Walters Academy for Entrepreneurship, and Pastor Shonda Obi of ObiOne Global Ministries, they’ve reached more children with their message together than they did alone.
Said Obi: “We go all over and service any community that needs help.”
GETTING BACK TO THE FUTURE:
L. RON HUBBARD HALL
And while the Fort Harrison and Flag Building construction, renovation and restoration projects, along with their sister building, the Oak Cove, all combined meant $282 million into the hands of area architects, designers, technicians, construction workers and the city, L. Ron Hubbard Hall will mean another shot in the arm of Clearwater—expanding the city’s life blood over the Memorial Causeway from the beach and into the very heart of downtown.
As designs are finalized, permits acquired and land prepared, the buzz is speeding around the globe. Thousands of Scientologists have heard the news of the hall and are spreading it like wildfire.
The 3,600-seat event hall will have retractable seats that convert into a 1,500 banquet facility. And that’s just the main hall. The eight fixed-position cameras, five state-of-the-art robotic cameras and 30 translator stations channel the images and sounds from the event hall to the main control room. Lounges, dining and kitchen facilities, exhibit hall and supporting spaces complete the building.
The genesis for the planning of the hall was a twofold purpose: a much-needed home to the half-dozen Scientology International Events broadcast to more than 100 countries, plus need of a venue for humanitarian and charity balls, symposiums and meetings by other nonprofit organizations in the Tampa Bay Area.
People arriving at L. Ron Hubbard Hall will first be drawn to the entrance park, which will include pillars bearing the 21 precepts of The Way to Happiness, the moral code that Mr. Hubbard devised to create a happier world.
The entire facade of the building will be glass. More striking, looking into the hall, event-goers or even downtown pedestrians will see “The Legacy Exhibit,” which will depict the many achievements of Mr. Hubbard. Yes, all those elements are in the building’s DNA. So, what could be more exciting than the details of an edifice?
It’s what L. Ron Hubbard Hall will mean to Clearwater, Florida, the spiritual capital of the Church of Scientology.
The Hall will be an economic dynamo that will bring an estimated 200,000-plus people through its doors each year.
L. Ron Hubbard Hall and its companion park will be many things: the gateway to Clearwater’s downtown, located adjacent to Fort Harrison Avenue and the major east-west thoroughfare through the city to the beach, Court Street. It will be a 21st-century exercise in development and event technology. Aside from the $100 million in construction costs that goes directly into the local economy for local contractors and tradesmen, once open, the venue will host hundreds of events every year—for both Scientologists and for other nonprofits and charities. The hall will be an economic dynamo that will bring an estimated 200,000-plus people through its doors each year; many of those people, Scientologists from around the world, will elect to stay for weeks and months at their spiritual home.
And if the annual visiting Scientologists already contribute $1.8 million in bed tax alone to Clearwater, we are looking at a marked increase of just that tax with the completion of the hall.
The spirit of Scientology is to make a great civilization in which all people have a stake and where they all can flourish. That mission is encoded in the purpose behind L. Ron Hubbard Hall. The hall will coalesce the energy of thousands of Scientologists and non-Scientologists at both large events and smaller gatherings. That energy will spread out to the community, launching humanitarian campaigns, building a great community and ultimately a great world.
And looking to the future, working with all concerned residents to build upon the city, the Church echoes the words of the man whose name graces the hall: “The day when you stop building your own environment, when you stop building your own surroundings, when you stop waving a magic hand and gracing everything around you with magic and beauty, things cease to be magical, things cease to be beautiful.”