BY MEREDITH SPELBRING
Jehovah’s Witnesses conventions stretching over four weekends in the South Sound isn't rare.
Holding gatherings over 15 weeks is.
Church members usually assemble for a series of three-day conventions at the Tacoma Dome. This year, because of renovations at the Dome beginning June 18, the event has been moved to the Puyallup Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Puyallup hall at 11515 62nd Ave. E. can hold up to 2,000 people. The Dome, by contrast, can handle 23,000.
Because of the smaller size of the Puyallup facility, the conventions — expected to draw 26,000 people from across the state — will be spread out weekends starting Friday (June 1) and continuing until Sept. 9. Of the 15 conventions, 12 will be in English and three in Spanish.
Despite the influx of thousands of visitors, traffic and parking at the new venue is not expected to be an issue, convention spokesman Dale Hudson said.
“People need to carpool, but we will have plenty of parking," he said. "It will be crowded but we will have enough.”
The change in location might help the event run smoother because of added audio and video capabilities, Hudson said.
The new location also comes with the benefit of permanence. Hudson said that in past years at the Dome, organizers had to take down the convention stage to make room for other incoming groups and then set up the space again a few days later.
The Pierce County gatherings are among many taking place in 180 countries across the globe by the Christian-based group, which believes the Bible is the word of God and takes it for truth. The theme of year’s convention is “Be Courageous!”
"It takes courage for people of all ages to face pressures in life that produce fear and anxiety," Hudson said. "We welcome everyone to this year's convention to benefit from the practical advice that's contained in the Bible."
This is one of the few years the annual conventions will not be held at the Dome. Last year's gatherings marked the Witnesses' 34th year in the Tacoma facility.
Regardless of location, Hudson said, he is confident this year's event will run smoothly.
“Wherever we go, huge venues to small venues, whatever we own, they all run pretty smooth,” he said. “We make great efforts to make sure that regardless of what building we are in or where we are at, the quality is still the same.”