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SUPER POWER UPDATE: Scientology Has Even More Excuses Not to Open Its Boondoggle

A year ago, we made public hundreds of schematics showing plans for Scientology’s “Flag Mecca,” known colloquially as the “Super Power” building. The city-block-sized, 300,000-square-foot monstrosity across the street from the Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater, Florida first broke ground in 1998, and even after the church was forced to pay $413,500 in penalties to the City of Clearwater in 2011 because of delays in its construction, there’s still no indication when it will open.

One of our tipsters noticed that this video featuring the Super Power building was posted Saturday on the church’s official YouTube channel. Hidden near the end of the segment — about 50 seconds from the finish — there’s news of yet another major project to be built next door to the Super Power building, one that looks like it could take several more years and millions more in construction

All hail “L. Ron Hubbard Hall,” David Miscavige’s newest excuse to delay opening his major fundraising boondoggle!

L_Ron_Hubbard_Hall

Our January 2012 series of articles in the Village Voice are still the only full publication of Scientology’s schematics and renderings for every floor of the Super Power Building to this day. (For some reason, Wikipedia hasn’t figured that out and doesn’t link to our pages. UPDATE: Hey, there’s a link now. What do you know.)

Those renderings give some indication why the building has taken so long and cost so much money — something like $145 million has been raised from members by Scientology leader David Miscavige so far, according to Lawrence Wright’s book Going Clear. Wright points out that when it was originally proposed in 1993, the project was supposed to cost only about $25 million. Former church executives have said that more than $200 million has actually been raised in its name. But despite all that fundraising, estimates for what has actually been spent constructing the building are “only” in the $50 million range.

Now it looks like the full project is going to cost a bit more.

As the video indicates, “final construction” of the mecca project includes the building of the new hall, which will be located just off the south side of the Super Power building itself.

According to a 1998 article by Tom Tobin in the St. Petersburg (now Tampa Bay) Times, the Hall was always part of original plans for the project — and was supposed to be completed around the year 2000. But since the Super Power Building itself became such a source for public drama, the Hall seemed to become an afterthought, stuck in the planning stages. In 2011, Tobin and Joe Childs wrote, “Still going strong, the [funding] campaign is raising the millions needed for a planned 3,500-seat auditorium, L. Ron Hubbard Hall.”

But does this new video indicate that construction of the Hall is finally imminent, and that it might push back the opening of the Super Power building itself once again?

Well, maybe not. After discussing this with insiders and former Scientologists who have watched the Super Power project for many years, we are leaning toward another conclusion about why this video — a new mashup made up mostly of old footage — suddenly showed up three days ago.

We think it may have something to do with the Garcia lawsuit.

On January 23, Luis and Rocio Garcia filed a federal lawsuit against the Church of Scientology, accusing the church of fraud in regards to its fundraising activities, and specifically for the way the Garcias were persuaded to give money for the Super Power project.

Part of that lawsuit — which may soon gain additional plaintiffs — is the allegation that the church has been raising far more money than the project requires.

According to court records, the church was served with the lawsuit on February 12, and has until March 5 to produce an answer. When it does, the church is likely to say that it has a legitimate purpose for every dollar it has raised. It’s in the church’s best interest, then, to show that it has reasons it has raised something like $100 million more than it cost to build the Super Power building itself.

And that’s where the L. Ron Hubbard Hall comes in. Suddenly, the church has quietly posted a video which says the Super Power project won’t be finished until the hall is built — even though, as one of our insiders pointed out, the hall is completely unnecessary for the delivery of the “Super Power” processes themselves, which is what the fundraising has largely been about.

So if the Hall, and this video, are intended to help the church with its lawsuit, does that mean that construction won’t actually be starting soon? We put in a message to church spokeswoman Karin Pouw, asking her how much time they expect the hall construction to take and what it will cost. We’ll let you know if she gets back to us.

We can certainly imagine why David Miscavige would want his own major hall. Clearwater observers remind us that the relationship between the church and the city’s nonprofit performing center, Ruth Eckerd Hall, has not always been a harmonious one.

Late in 2011, there was an embarrassing episode when the church actually tried to raise money for Ruth Eckerd Hall by putting on a benefit concert featuring David Pomeranz. But when e-mails about the show were sent to the Hall’s mailing list, it horrified many of its members. Some of them feared that their information would be obtained by Scientology, which is notorious for sending people materials no matter how much people don’t want them. The episode showed that the relationship between the venue and the church wasn’t as cozy as it appeared.

Also, it makes sense that Miscavige would want his own facility to host the annual L. Ron Hubbard Birthday Party celebration in March or the big annual New Year’s Eve party. Not only would there be no “wog” facility to deal with, but security could be even tighter than it already is. (In October, the Sun newspaper managed to sneak a reporter into the church’s big annual International Association of Scientologists gala, held in England, in an attempt to spot Tom Cruise. The actor attended on a different, night, however.)

Despite those incentives, however, we’d be pretty shocked to hear that ground had been broken for the hall. With Scientology shrinking, Miscavige may not have the personnel to staff the unopened Super Power building as it is. And over the last year, Scientology entities have made at least three big payouts to end lawsuits, each of which we’d wager were in the seven figures (Debbie Cook, Paul Marrick and Greg Arnold, and the Desmond family.) With millions more going to the church’s current advertising blitz, the church has to be feeling a bit stretched, even with its IAS cash pile.

We trust our Clearwater tipsters will continue to keep an eye on the project, and let us know if there is any obvious sign of construction of the new hall. L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday is coming in less than a month — surely he deserves his own de-luxe opry house!

 
UPDATE: Marc Headley sent us this overhead shot of Super Power building. (See Marc’s lengthy comment below, it’s illuminating.) Somewhere in the yellow square is where the new Hall looks like it’s going, judging from the video rendering.

SuperPowerOverhead

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LINKS OF NOTE

The latest New York Times Best Sellers list has BOTH Jenna Miscavige Hill’s Beyond Belief (4) and Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear (5) in the top five of combined print + e-book nonfiction sales this week. WOW.

And in Canada, where Wright’s publisher decided not to make the book available, that’s apparently pushed Jenna’s book to number one.

For some reason, Karin Pouw’s denunciations of these books don’t seem to be holding back sales. Who knew.

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Posted by Tony Ortega on February 18, 2013 at 07:00

 

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