MONROE, Ohio — Construction has started on a giant Jesus statue to replace one destroyed last year by lightning in southwest Ohio. And this time, it will have defense against Mother Nature.

The Solid Rock Church in Monroe says construction began Wednesday on the 51-foot-tall statue. It will show Jesus standing with outstretched arms.

Church officials say the new statue will have a lightning-suppression system. It will have a steel substructure and be finished with a top coat that resembles limestone.

The new statue is replacing a mammoth partial depiction of Jesus from the chest up. That statue had been nicknamed Touchdown Jesus because of the way the arms were raised outward, like a referee’s signal. The large “King of Kings” statue, its official name, was a Butler County landmark since it was erected in 2004 outside Solid Rock Church, 904 N. Union Rd., along northbound Interstate 75 in Monroe just north of the Ohio 63 exit.

Monroe fire officials set damage from the June 15, 2010 fire at $700,000, after lightning struck and burned down the 62-foot-high Jesus Christ statue and an adjacent amphitheater at Solid Rock Church. The statue alone was valued at $300,000.

The Middletown Journal reports that construction of the new statue is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

Touchdown Jesus, ablaze.

Touchdown Jesus, after the fire. Fiberglass and other fragments from the blaze also fell into the adjacent pond killing all the fish.

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