The Kalispell campus of Fresh Life Church reopened to the public on March 2 after a year and a half of renovation expansion of its downtown buildings.
The project, estimated in July 2017 to cost around $2.8 million, included the construction of a new 16,000-square-foot, two-story building that now connects the two historic buildings owned by the church — the Liberty Theater and the Montana Building — which also underwent some interior remodeling.
During the renovation period, the church held its Kalispell services in the Stand Building directly east of City Hall.
Now that the new building has reopened for business, Lead Pastor Levi Lusko said Wednesday the church plans to utilize the Strand as the site for its new Fresh Life leadership college.
According to Lusko, the college will offer people the chance to take regular college courses and study ministry.
The college will be accredited through Southeastern University in Florida, and Lusko said he plans to be directly involved through speaking engagements and ministry leadership.
An opening date has not yet been set for the college.
With the completion of its Kalispell campus, Lusko said the church will now turn its focus to the launching of its 13th branch, set to open March 19 inside the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge.
The church, Lusko said, will cater to 1,500 inmates, giving them the chance to watch the broadcast services inside the prison.
At the Kalispell campus, Lusko said the No. 1 reason the church needed the addition was to integrate the children’s ministry into the main buildings, moving it out of the Strand Building across the street where it was formerly housed.
Now, Lusko said, “Fresh Life kids” can enjoy an array of entertainment options within the Montana Building, which was remodeled and devoted solely to the children’s ministry.
The building now includes features such as sensory walls, an Xbox system, basketball and gaga ball arenas, a 15-foot Lego wall and a climbing wall.
“We wanted to send the message ‘play with the walls,’” Lusko said. “We believe the kids aren’t the church of tomorrow, but the church of right now.”
The other goal of the new building was to create an indoor gathering space where members and visitors could hang out and mingle before and after the services.
Before the renovation, Lusko said visitors would scatter after the service, especially in the winter, due to temperatures outside and limited space inside.
Lusko also emphasized the high quality of the bathrooms in the new building. His goal, he said, was to have the best bathrooms in the state and provide the best public bathroom experience one could have.
Though the church building will remain closed to the public outside of operational hours, Lusko said all are welcome to visit the church and use its facilities during service times on Saturdays and Sundays.
In remodeling and combining the historic downtown buildings into a single facility, one priority Lusko said he and his team kept in mind was preserving the architectural and historical integrity of the buildings while integrating modern safety and technological features.
Aesthetic-wise, Lusko described Fresh Life’s style as industrial modern, but the building’s design also incorporated and exposed some of the original building materials.
Fresh Life’s structure as an interlinked, multi-site church with services streaming online and on television via video broadcast also called for state-of-the-art video and sound equipment, Lusko said.
“People have an expectation of excellence,” Lusko said.
Citing his role within the church as primarily ministry and creative vision, Lusko said he was unsure what the total cost of renovations was or how much the congregation raised toward the project.
All funding for the project, he said, came from donations made by members of Fresh Life Church.
Lusko praised the work of CTA Architects Engineers in Kalispell and nuWest Builders based in Whitefish, on the project, describing their execution of the plans as “seamless.”
Founded in 2007 by Lusko and his wife, Jennie, Fresh Life Church began in Kalispell and has expanded to include campuses in Whitefish, Missoula, Bozeman, Billings, Polson, Helena, Salt Lake City, Great Falls, Butte, Jackson Hole and Portland.
The church hosts services in Kalispell on Saturdays at 5 p.m. and on Sundays at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
For more information, time and locations, visit http://www.freshlife.church/.
Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.