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Motorcycle magazine housed in former church

by Linda Hiller

The steeple is gone and the carpet of green grass has been replaced by a $75,000 parking lot.

Where there were church pews in the sanctuary, soon there will be office cubicles. The fellowship hall has been subdivided into offices, too, and the old church smell is gone.

If you didn’t already know the building had been a church since the early 1950s, little is left that would tell you so.

But it could have been worse. It could have been torn down.

The old Carson Valley United Methodist Church building, long a landmark on the south side of Highway 395 where Minden turns to Gardnerville, has been undergoing a transformation since the church congregation left the too-small facility a few years ago.

The building was sold in the fall of 1996 to Gardnerville businessman Rick Campbell, and its next phase may well turn out to be one for the books.

How often does a church convert to a headquarters for a motorcycle trade magazine?

– How it evolved. Campbell, 53, is the publisher of Motorcycle Industry Magazine, one of four trade magazines that serve the motorcycle business world, a $7.5 billion per year industry. He started the magazine in 1980 in Southern California and has built it to what he says is currently the only magazine of the four to be profitable.

“Right now we have a circulation of 13,000 and bill around $1.35 million a year,” he said.

Campbell bought the two buildings on 7/10 of an acre – the 3,500 square-foot church and the accompanying 1,785 square-foot minister’s house – for $430,000 in 1996. Meanwhile, he has been overseeing the $200,000 remodel project and will move the magazine’s offices from the converted minister’s house into the larger building this month if all goes well.

Amid the church-office building transformation, Campbell is also planning to change his business from publishing one trade magazine to at least five magazines within approximately six years.

“We currently employ eight people with an annual payroll of close to half a million dollars,” he said. “But my goal is to eventually produce five titles with revenues of $8 to $10 million and employ 15 to 20 people.”

Campbell said renovations in the 3,500 square-foot building include six new offices (the fellowship hall), four work stations (the sanctuary), a new computer system, phone and fax system, heating and air conditioning, a break room, handicapped accessible restrooms, and new furnishings.

“Dealing with Douglas County-based contractors and suppliers has been a priority of ours all along,” he said. “I believe in spending the money where it will do the most good – right here in our own town.”

Beginning the staff expansion at Motorcycle Industry Magazine, Michele Flagg was recently added as administrative assistant and circulation manager and Don Stangle, retired deputy chief of the East Fork Fire District joined the staff as account manager.

– Former occupants reflect. Down the road a few miles at the new location of the Carson Valley United Methodist Church on Centerville Lane, Pete Nelson, who has been the pastor of the congregation since 1983, said leaving the old church building was difficult for many of the long-time parishioners.

“The hard thing about selling or leaving a church building is that there is so much spiritual feelings in those walls,” he said. “People are married there, have baptisms there, have funerals there and it’s hard to leave that behind. We just got too big for the building, though.”

The old church seated 80 in the pews, with an overflow 40-person capacity in the fellowship hall, Nelson said, while the new church seats 250 in the new oak pews downstairs and 60 in the balcony pews, which came from the old building.

Marge Cottom, who has been attending Carson Valley United Methodist Church for more than two decades, said she, too, had fond memories of the old church building.

“Leaving it was hard at first – my husband and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary there – I remember there were balloons on the altar and we had a ball,” she said. “But I like the new building – the old one is a landmark, that’s what it is.”

n Christmas ark. Although Nelson said everyone at the church is very satisfied with the new building and location, the congregation recently discovered that new isn’t necessarily better.

On Christmas Eve, shortly before the first service was to begin, a frozen sprinkler pipe ruptured in the ceiling of the sanctuary causing hundreds of gallons of water to gush down the wall and onto the carpeted floor.

All the pews had to be quickly moved out of that flooded room, and the Christmas services were held in the fellowship hall rather than in the sanctuary with the stained glass windows that had been brought from the old church.

“We’re dealing with it,” Nelson said. “We’re insured.”

Nelson said he feels the members of the congregation today who attended services in the old building probably share a similar sentiment as they drive by the former site.

“I know everyone in the congregation will be glad to see the building alive again,” he said. “It was hard for us to see it sit empty, so it’s good to see it getting used again.”

Campbell joked about what may await his staff as they soon occupy a building that once was a sacred place of the faithful – a house of God for more than 40 years.

“I thought about putting in a dealership or something and calling it ‘Holy Rollers,'” he joked. “But mainly we’ll be concentrating on the expansion of the publishing business.”

Though the steeple, the stained glass windows and most of what made the building a church are now gone, Campbell preserved what Nelson also remarked as being one of the most “incredible” elements of the sanctuary.

“We left much of the chapel area the same, especially the impressive rafters,” Campbell said. “We thought it would be a shame to lose the ambience in there.”

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