WATERVILLE — Gospel hymns will be replacing the sound of crashing bowling pins Sunday at 155 West River Road, when Centerpoint Community Church holds its first religious service after renovating the former Sparetime Recreation bowling alley.

“This new space allows us so many more options,” said the Rev. Craig Riportella, Centerpoint’s lead pastor. “We really believe that church is something more than what you do. It is who we are. … We believe this (new space) will foster that environment.”

The church’s purchase of the 23,000-square-foot building was finalized last April, after Sparetime owner Andy Couture announced in September 2014 that he planned to sell the bowling alley property to Centerpoint.

The church has invested $1.5 million on the purchase and renovation of the property. Riportella said that most of this funding was raised through a three-year fundraising campaign within the church’s local 400-person parish. Centerpoint received additional funding for the renovation in the form of a loan from its national parent organization, the Assembly of God.

Initially, Centerpoint had planned to build the church at 60 West River Road, the site of the church’s school, Temple Academy. But upon discovering that the Sparetime property was for sale, church officials decided that renovating an existing building would be cheaper than building a church from the ground up.

“We have really just outgrown our facilities,” Riportella said.

Until now, Centerpoint’s religious services were held in the Temple Academy gymnasium, forcing church officials to put together and dismantle chairs and an altar every Sunday.

Work on renovating the bowling alley into a community space and worship auditorium began in April and was in the final stages of cleaning and finishing touches Friday afternoon.

For the first month of construction, the bowling alley was still open to the public.

General contractor for the project and church member John Matthew said the crash of bowling pins was audible as crews of volunteers worked on building the offices on the right side of the building. In May, the 24 48-foot-long bowling lanes were removed from what is now the church’s worship auditorium. The wood from the lanes was turned into tables that are dispersed around the building.

“One of the things that we tried to do was repurpose as much of the building as we could,” Riportella said.

The building has several sections, which allows the church to accommodate all of the services and groups it offers.

Office space for the church’s staff is set to the right, just inside the front door. To the left of the entryway is a room for Centerpoint’s teen church group. A common area that boasts a cafe and lounge with a television and couches is in the center of the area.

“We are very community-minded,” Riportella said. “Our goal is to have this space be a hangout spot for people in the community.”

In the back of the building is the youth church, where there are several rooms and classrooms that will be used to cater to the parish youth.

Off the common area are double doors leading to the church’s worship auditorium, which has been built where Sparetime’s lanes used to be. Riportella said that they have equipped the auditorium with a state-of-the-art sound system for the church’s worship band to use. The aesthetics of the auditorium are simple, with gray walls and a concrete floor.

“We went with simplicity. We were not looking for elegance; we were looking for utility,” Riportella said.

Most of the renovation was done by volunteers from the parish and the community. A group of seven Assembly of God volunteers from around the country, called MAPS RVer’s, volunteered their summer to camp on the property and help with Centerpoint’s construction.

“The RV people were all 60-plus years and are building churches when they could be playing golf,” Matthew said. “All of the volunteers did wonderful work.”

Inmates from the Kennebec County jail also worked on the renovations over the summer as part of a work-release programs. Riportella serves as a chaplin at the jail.

The renovated building will get its first use Saturday night when Centerpoint hosts a concert by Christian band Big Daddy Weave. Riportella expects 800 to 1,000 people to attend the 7 p.m. concert. The building has a maximum capacity of 1,400 people.

Centerpoint’s first religious service in the new church is at 10 a.m. Sunday.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

 

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