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Thousands of Scientologists attend opening of long-awaited facility

Nov. 18, 2013 at 4:48 PM   |   Comments

CLEARWATER, Fla., Nov. 18 (UPI) -- Thousands of Scientologists have attended the unveiling of a multimillion-dollar building in a Florida city that is a hub for the religion, officials say.

After 12 years of stop-and-start construction, the Flag Building in downtown Clearwater was opened by church leader David Miscavage in a ceremony that lasted less than 10 minutes, the Tampa Tribune reported Monday.

Estimates of the number of church members at the grand opening ranged from less than 6,000 to about 10,000.

The seven-story building will host the church's "Super Power" programs developed by founder Ron Hubbard designed to hone members' 57 senses.

Only church members were allowed in the building, but building plans indicated the facility was designed for a multitude of uses. The basement contains a kitchen and dining hall while two stories are dedicated to a suite of offices with a balcony, conference room, kitchenette and private shower. There are hundreds of classrooms and offices, and a running track large enough to accommodate more than 450 people.

The church applied for a building permit in 1999 and had to pay the city more than $413,000 in fines tied to the building's lengthy construction period, plus an additional five years in late fees and interest.

During a fundraising campaign that began in the 1990s, church workers said they needed to raise $100 million to finance construction of the building. The Tampa Bay Times said it estimated more than $145 million was actually contributed.

The church's celebration will last all week, with tents set up outside, closing some adjacent streets until Sunday.

Church adherent Claire Malloy traveled from Los Angeles for the celebration, and said the massive building would have a positive impact on the local community.

"Clearwater has become so symbolic to Scientologists because everyone comes here for training," she said. "We have quite a presence here, and I think this will make Scientology even more visible."

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