Construction is underway on the San Clemente branch of Saddleback Church where officials hope to have the new church ready for Easter services.
The church's San Clemente Pastor Scott Hitzel said the congregation in town -- about 2,500 total when counting all the church programs -- is now meeting on the weekends at San Clemente High School. A commercial building off Avenida Pico will house the new facility, which will include the largest auditorium in the city. Church officials hope the new facility will enable them to expand programs to meet the needs of the community.
The Lake Forest-based mega church has signed a long-term lease for 50,000 square feet of commercial space, which it is retrofitting to create a large auditorium, administrative office space and space for children's and adults programs, said Hitzel.
"We have some signature programs we want to expand in the community," Hitzel said. "We have been turning people away from the children's program. We have a program called Celebrate Recovery that helps people tackle a habit or hang-up. We currently have people standing outside and looking in."
Hitzel said the new facility would allow the church in San Clemente to "triple, in essence, all of the programs."
He also said the auditorium would be the largest in San Clemente, and he said the church wants to share and rent out the facility to local organizations to host plays or other events.
Hitzel said Saddleback employs seven local staffers, but other support staff based in Lake Forest also do work for the church in San Clemente.