GRAND CHUTE - For the hundreds in attendance at Appleton Alliance Church Sunday afternoon, it's a big day for celebration.
It only took about 15 years and $35 million to complete, but the 120,000-square-foot, $25 million second phase of expansion is now complete.
The church, which is actually located in Grand Chute, dedicated that final phase Sunday.
"We didn't intend on building big, initially," said the interdenominational church's senior pastor Rev. Dennis Episcopo.
Episcopo says the most recent phase allows the church to now boast a 2,000-seat worship space, child education wing and sports facility – as well as a café.
The church completed the first phase of expansion in 2003. Boldt Construction project managers say this second phase is one of the largest church projects they have ever done.
"It was a pretty amazing facility to begin with and we, by the time we were all done with construction, we almost tripled the size of what they had," said Tony Meeuwsen with Boldt Construction.
A mega church is generally defined as having more than two-thousand attendees in a given week. Episcopo says the church has about 3,500.
While the church may be technically defined as a 'mega church,' Episcopo says he doesn't view it in that way, as he says the term comes with some baggage.
AAC is to make people feel at home.
"We want to put a towel over our arm and serve the Fox Valley," said Episcopo, "That's where our heart's at."
Episcopo says this church is a far cry from the original church's humble beginnings in a downtown Appleton YMCA in the early 20th century. Former church leaders say that this church is one they are in awe of.
"One word: awesome!" said Rev. George St. Cyr.
St. Cyr was pastor at Appleton Alliance from 1976 to 1985. Now a pastor in Minnesota, he's back for the dedication.
St. Cyr says in his time, the church boasted about 200 members.
"It's neat to see that God is blessing and that I had a part, at least a little part, for this church to build upon to where it is today," said St. Cyr.
While the church is still growing in membership, Episcopo says he doesn't see the church outgrowing this expansion any time soon.
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