The megachurch that draws tens of thousands to its services on San Antonio’s far North Side is about to get even larger.
Cornerstone Church, located at Stone Oak Parkway and North Loop 1604 West, is a sprawling complex with eight structures, including a 5,400-seat sanctuary, prayer chapel, gymnasium, classrooms, and a parking lot so large a shuttle service is provided.
The Cornerstone brand is even larger and includes two church locations, a K-12 Christian school, a home for teenage mothers in Bulverde, a youth sports program, and the Hagee Ministries media empire.
A $12.5 million expansion plan to renovate and nearly double the size of the neoclassical main sanctuary is set to begin in May, according to documents submitted to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). It is expected to be completed in April 2022.
The expansion plan began in 2019 when church leaders introduced “Vision 2020,” a campaign to raise funds for a building project they planned to kick off last year.
Lead Pastor Matt Hagee said in a video that the project would help the church bring together families and provide spaces for weddings, baptisms, and other “momentous” occasions.
“And as the years go on, you’ll look back and consider where they were taking place,” Hagee said. “They were taking place in the same place that you received the word of God.”
But like many houses of worship in 2020, Cornerstone temporarily closed its doors to in-person services to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In October, the church announced that its founder and senior pastor, the 80-year-old John Hagee, had contracted the virus.
The pandemic also delayed the construction start date but not the planning, said Norman Trail, who works in project management for Cornerstone Church.
While the church reopened May 17, its estimated 17,000-member congregation hasn’t fully returned. “We’ve been just progressively growing little by little,” Trail said. “We’re just above 50% that’s coming into the church for both the morning services.”
Church leaders did not respond to multiple calls for additional information about the expansion project.
Cornerstone Church began as the Church of Castle Hills in 1966, formed by John Hagee. As the congregation grew, Hagee moved the church to several locations before purchasing the Stone Oak property in 1984 and opening Cornerstone with a dedication by his father, the Rev. Bythel Hagee, in 1987.
Hagee, a popular televangelist also known for his pro-Israel views and controversial statements about other religions, passed the lead pastor torch to his son Matt in 2018.
The imposing Cornerstone campus first expanded in 2013 with The Ark, a 28,400-square-foot building for Sunday school and mother’s day out programs. More than 20,000 were reported to have attended the opening.
In 2016, the church relocated its Cornerstone Christian School from its former Vance Jackson Road site to a new sprawling campus on Northwest Military Highway.
At 34 years old, the church is now in need of renovation, Trail said. “I call it the ‘mothership’ of all the other ministries – it all starts there.”
In addition to the sanctuary expansion, the church will get upgrades to the lighting, pews, stage, and new carpeting.
The project is currently out for contractor bids, he said, and fencing skirts a portion of the 28-acre campus at the busy Stone Oak Parkway and Loop 1604 intersection. Austin-based Jackson Galloway FGM Architects, which specializes in churches and schools, is the design firm named in TDLR documents.
Renderings presented and described in a campaign video featuring design architect Nick Cooper of Parkhill show an enlarged main sanctuary with a new front entry and reception space.
Cooper said he wanted to create a more obvious front door and “make the facility one that is easy to use and that you don’t get lost in that you can find your way around and find your way through it.”
Cornerstone is one of a number of large nondenominational worship centers that have sprung up across a several-mile stretch of North Loop 1604. The 14,000-member Community Bible Church, which has a 3,500-seat auditorium, opened in 2001 on 56 acres east of U.S. Highway 281.
This story has been updated with current renderings.