Scientology's heaviest hitters -- including film stars Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and church head David Miscavige -- convened in Clearwater, Fla. Sunday to cut the ribbon on the seven-story, 377,000 sq. ft, Flag Building, that will host the faith's ballyhooed "Super Power" program.
Miscavige delivered an eight-minute speech, the Tampa Bay Times reported, before leading a pack of the faiths VIP into the building, which insiders estimated came at a cost of $145 million. (Travolta's wife Kelly Preston was also at the event.)
Super Power, a program drawn up by L. Ron Hubbard more than 30 years ago, is said to enable the religion's devout to "create a new world;" the program hadn't been pursued until the proper facility had been erected as a hub, a requirement the Flag Building fulfills. Plans submitted to city officials show machines that help users gain a feel for zero gravity; and a giant wheel styled as a gyroscope.
The paper reported that while the church expected more than 10,000 Scientologists at the outdoor event, only 3,000 showed up. Scientology officials rebuffed the paper's inquiry for a tour of the structure, as church spokesman Peter Mansell said they were "not interested."
The cost of the building hasn't come without a measure of controversy, as Irvine, Calif. couple Rocio and Luis Garcia, both ex-Scientologists, have named the church in a fraud suit, claiming construction costs were used as a way to siphon money out of donators for more than a dozen years.