New England Chapel Brings New Life to Former Ficco Bowladrome
FRANKLIN – For more than 75 years, the space inside Ficco’s former Bowladrome has echoed with the thud and roll of candle balls, the clatter of falling pins and the friendly chatter of families and friends for a night of fun and friendly competition.
Today, Franklin’s beloved monument is filled with new sounds and new conversations, but the space retains its atmosphere of friendliness and excitement – a sense of community that has permeated the walls over the decades. and continues to be created by the members of the New England Chapel.
In the weeks following the building’s renovation by the religious community earlier this summer, many cars pulled into the parking lot at 300 East Central St. filled with people curious to see what has become of the bowladrome, where so many people spent free time. bowling, going out and celebrating special occasions.
âWe’ve had so many people come over and say, ‘Can we just take a look? â, Said Community & Connections Pastor Heather Kempskie.
The answer is âof course! “
Ficco’s transformation into the New England Chapel Home will be on display this weekend as the community is invited to an open house, with self-guided tours, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
So far, Kempskie said, visitors have been very happy to see the building still standing and happy with the repurposing of some of the old floors from the bowling alleys into table tops.
After being vacant for several years, the bowladrome caught the attention of New England Chapel Senior Pastor Mike Laird two years ago. He noticed the “For Sale” sign in front of him on his way home from a grocery run and got an idea. Temporarily housed in a warehouse near Grove Street, its lease expiring, the church needed a house, and Ficco needed a new caretaker.
It turned out to be a perfect marriage, providing the 20-year-old faith community with a more visible and easily accessible location, as well as sufficient space for its growing numbers.
The New England Chapel promotes itself as a church for people who have renounced the church but not God. At a time when church attendance continues to decline across the country, hundreds of people are attending weekly services and attendance is increasing, New England chapel leaders said. Many new participants came to “check” because of their Ficco connection.
Ficco’s Bowladrome closed in 2015 after an offer was made to demolish the building to make way for a shopping center. When that plan failed, the building was awaiting a new proposal, which came from the New England Chapel in 2019. Much of the renovations took place during the pandemic, with professionals and an army of volunteers. It is estimated that the volunteers put 1,500 hours of painting, unpacking and preparation in the building.
And the end result has everyone in the faith community filled with pride and joy.
âFor decades, the Ficco family has provided a space for all of us to relax and a place for families and friends to have fun together. The New England Chapel polishes this concept up a bit by adding a venue. of meaning, purpose, inspiration and faith to thrive, âsaid Laird.
âWe hope that NEC is a place where people can learn more about God in a very practical way that can help them in everyday life,â said Laird.
Kempskie said the goal from the start was to create a space where people can come together and continue the tradition of fellowship initiated by Ficco.
âThe idea was just to create a place where people come together and connect. We wanted to make it comfortable and inviting,â she said.
The space, where some services began taking place this summer, is not restricted to members of the New England chapel, she said, noting that the community is encouraged to inquire about the use of space for various purposes. The space has previously been used by local Boy Scouts and support groups, as well as a dance troupe who used it as a rehearsal space.
The 21,450 square foot space includes a sanctuary for up to 400 people (where 10 bowling alleys were previously), a cafe where free coffee is served during services (where the party rooms were once), a space for children from birth to fifth grade during services, a youth room, conference rooms and offices (including a library and a prayer room).
âIt’s just beautiful,â enthused Next Steps coordinator Kim Bradshaw, a customer service volunteer at the New England Chapel.
âThe one thing we notice the most on a Sunday is that everyone comes together and spends time,â as people did when the building was owned by Ficco, she said.
Kim Mu-Chow, the coordinator of @NEC, shared Bradshaw’s sentiment, calling the finished product “awesome.”
A resident of Franklin for 31 years, she said it was nice to see a building so important to the community being renovated and reused.
“It’s kind of like our stewardship,” she said.
âPeople have so many great memories here,â she said. “We want this building for years and years to continue to create great memories for people.”
Saturday’s open house will include refreshments and freebies. And everyone who walks through the gates will be entered into a raffle to win a creation featuring a piece of the original bowling alley.
The New England Chapel recently added two Sunday services at 9 am and 10:30 am For more information, visit nechapel.org