Chapel could rise in Sandestin by summer

Pam Griffin
An elevation and rendering of the proposed chapel

For more than two years, developer Tom Becnel, owner of Sandestin, and his daughter, Sara, have wanted to build a chapel inside the gates of the resort community.

Now, the Becnels are waiting to receive approval from the Walton County planners so that building can begin.

“Once we receive approval, construction will take about four months,” Sara, director of retail operations at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, told The Log. “We are hoping to get approval and our minor development order soon so we can begin, as we are cutting it very close now to having it ready by summer.”

Without a chapel, the Becnels felt that something was missing from Sandestin with all its accommodations.

 “The idea came to us soon after we purchased the property,” Sara said. “We wanted to create a welcoming, non-denominational space for the guests of the resort, homeowners, and locals to be able to congregate to celebrate their faith and have an easy place on property for guests to come practice their faith while they were away form home.”

The family resort attracts many each year who want to get married, but there was not a traditional church setting for those who wanted one.

“The beach is, of course, fabulous for weddings and so are our many ballroom spaces, but for some, they simply want to be married in a church,” Sara said. “Besides that, it does offer a great alternative, or ‘plan B’, for those possible rained-out beach weddings, as many of our ballrooms are booked out months in advance.  We just felt it would help expand our wedding offerings to our guests.”

Finding a location for the chapel was easy, and Jay Stone, chairman of the board of directors at The Gathering at Sandestin, told The Log it will be located between LeCiel condos and the ninth green of the Links golf course. 

“We picked a gorgeous, quiet setting overlooking the bay that afforded us plenty of parking as well for wedding guests,” Sara said.

The Sandestin Chapel, as it is currently being called, will be home for The Gathering on Sunday mornings.

“The Gathering usually gets about 80-110 people, so it will fit us perfectly,” Stone said.

Other uses for the chapel will be weddings, baptisms, renewals of wedding vows and meetings or services for other religious groups. 

Destin residents will be excited to learn that the pews from St. John's Greek Orthodox Church will be in the new chapel, and new memories will be made for decades to come.

“From the Greek church we were also able to get the light fixtures and the beautiful Bishop's Chair,” Sara said. “Thus far, we have not received anything else from other churches, but are always on the lookout for special, ornate pieces that will further enhance the beauty of the chapel.”

As Tom said about the pews in an interview last year, “All the people who loved the old Destin church are welcome to come and visit them.”