Willow Creek eyeing Lincolnshire location for latest church expansion

Willow Creek Community Church officials are eyeing Lincolnshire for their latest regional campus.

The South Barrington megachurch already has satellites in Huntley, Crystal Lake, Northfield, West Chicago and Chicago. Willow Creek serves more than 20,000 worshippers, its website boasts.

Plans call for the next satellite to open in vacant office and warehouse space at 625 Barclay Blvd. in Lincolnshire, according to a village memo.

Until that facility is ready, Willow Creek has asked for permission to hold Sunday services at the Regal Lincolnshire Stadium 21 and IMAX movie theater, 300 Parkway Drive.

“For many years, Willow has wanted to expand to better reach Lake County,” said Matt Wright, who's set to be the lead pastor in Lincolnshire. “We believe Lincolnshire will strategically position us very well to reach people with the healing message of God.”

The Lincolnshire theater is part of the CityPark shopping center, and activities there are limited legally under the village-approved plan for the complex. Village officials would have to grant the church permission to temporarily hold services there.

A one-year special-use permit has been recommended. Lincolnshire's zoning board and village board will review the request and decide its fate.

The church has proposed renting one wing of the building Sunday mornings.

Adult services would be held in one 380-seat theater at 8:30 and 10 a.m., according to a letter to village officials from an attorney for the church. Additionally, youth services and programs would be held in other movie auditoriums.

Space for child care services would be needed, too.

“The church does not foresee using more than seven of the 10 auditoriums for (youth activities) and an eighth auditorium for volunteers assisting with the operation,” attorney Lawrence M. Freedman wrote in the letter, which was provided to the Daily Herald.

Regal Cinemas would shift Sunday-morning movie showings to avoid disrupting church services, according to a village memo.

As for the long-term plan for the Barclay Boulevard space, Village Manager Brad Burke likes the idea of allowing church services in an office park.

Because gatherings will be on Sundays, they won't interfere with corporate workers in the area during the workweek, he said. Additionally, the parishioners may spend time shopping or eating in Lincolnshire, which is good for the local economy, he said.

“(It) could provide traffic on the weekends that isn't currently there,” Burke said.

The village board could hear a presentation about Willow Creek's plan for the Barclay Boulvard space on Feb. 23, Burke said.

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