WATERVILLE — The final pins will fall Wednesday at the city’s last bowling alley before it is transformed into a church, youth center and cafe.

Sparetime Recreation bowling center owner Andy Couture sold the West River Road building to Centerpoint Community Church earlier this year.

The church is renovating the building while allowing Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine to hold its two-day annual Bowl for Kids’ Sake fundraiser Tuesday and Wednesday.

Couture leased the building from the church through March 31 to allow bowling leagues to finish out their schedules. Meanwhile, Centerpoint’s lead pastor, Craig Riportella, said demolition and framing work has started inside the building to make way for church offices.

“There are a few (bowling) lanes we’ve started to take apart, and we’re providing a lot of volunteer labor to help Andy remove stuff,” Riportella said. “It’s going great. Andy and I have worked very well together through this transition.”

The Centerpiece church building at 60 West River Road, about a half-mile north of the bowling alley, has grown rapidly over the last several years and it had to expand.

Riportella said the goal is to move the church offices to the new site in July or early August and have the sanctuary completed and ready for occupancy in October.

“It’s a pretty aggressive goal, and we definitely hope we can reach it,” he said.

The 22,000-plus-square-foot building on about four acres at 155 West River Road housed the 24-lane 10-pin bowling alley that Couture had owned for 16 years. He also owns Sparetime Recreation bowling centers in Lewiston and Augusta.

Couture said the bowling lanes and gutters and tables, chairs and lockers from the West River Road bowling alley are going to his Lewiston site, and seating will go to Lewiston and to a bowling alley in Skowhegan. Some pin and ball return machines will go to Wilton.

“By the end of next week, there won’t be a whole lot there,” he said.

Couture said a few senior bowling leagues that bowled in Waterville will continue to bowl at his Augusta site and a few will go to Skowhegan, but most won’t continue bowling.

“There were a lot of sad people around there in April,” he said of the West River Road center. “It wasn’t a fun place to be around. There was no outward negativity or aggression toward me because most people understood.”

While he will keep the Lewiston and Augusta centers open, Couture, 67, closed the Waterville location because he wants more time to be a Hospice volunteer.

“I don’t want to retire,” he said. “I’m too young to retire.”

Couture said 400 to 500 people bowled at the center as part of leagues and another 1,000 to 2,000 people a week bowled there.

The church served free coffee, donuts and muffins to the senior leagues for the last few weeks they bowled at the center.

“We realize this is a big loss for the community to lose the bowling,” Riportella said.

Centerpoint, which in 2013 changed its name from Calvary Church, has a school — Temple Academy — that will remain at 60 West River Road. Riportella is superintendent of the school and chaplain for the Waterville fire and police departments.

When Riportella and his wife, Lisa, arrived at the church 10 years ago, 60 students were enrolled in the academy, which serves students in kindergarten through grade 12. Now the school serves more than 200 students, and the church, which had 40 parishioners 10 years ago, now has more than 300. The academy has been in existence 38 years.

Riportella said the church’s goal is to allow the community to use space free-of-charge in the new church building. The auditorium alone will seat more than 800 people, and a Christian concert is already scheduled for November, he said.

Centerpoint has provided space free of charge for the annual fire department awards dinner the last few years and wants to continue to do so in the new space, according to Riportella, whose parishioners do volunteer work in the community.

“I just want people to know we’re here because we believe in our community, and we hope to continue to serve our community the way we have been,” he said.

The cafe in the new space will be open during the week to the public. Riportella said the goal is to make it a comfortable space where people may gather and talk.

Meanwhile, local contractors will do some of the renovation work and many volunteers from the Assemblies of God national fellowship will come from all over the country this summer to help build the new sanctuary. They will stay on the church property in recreational vehicles.

“Many are retired, maybe former pastors,” Riportella said. “Some will stay one month and some six months. They will help with plumbing. They’ll help with a little bit of everything. We could not do a project of this magnitude otherwise.”

Couture said he is willing to help guide anyone interested in opening a new bowling alley in Waterville.

His advice to the city is to be business-friendly to prospective bowling alley owners.

“Keep your fingers crossed and be supportive when somebody says they want to build a new bowling center,” he said. “It’s a unique piece of the community.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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