DAMARISCOTTA — The new Central Lincoln County YMCA couldn’t have happened without the support of the community.

More than 250 people from the Damariscotta community and neighboring towns helped CEO Meagan Hamblett, staff and volunteers celebrate the grand re-opening of the facility on Sunday afternoon.

The nearly $6.8 million community center – much more than just a place for recreation – was constructed in less than year after a capital campaign that lasted several years. There were more than 100 companies, families and individuals who donated their money and time to make the project a reality.

“I don’t think the community understood the impact, but today, they had a chance to see it with their own eyes,” Hamblett said.

For more than two hours, YMCA staff and volunteers in new green, yellow, blue and red CLC YMCA apparel directed traffic throughout the new space.

People walked around the new center with wide eyes and big smiles. From octogenarians and baby boomers to millennials and children, the center was filled with people openly gasping when they turned the corner from the lobby into the new weight room or walked down the entryway and seating area to the new teaching kitchen.

“If you have been to other YMCAs around New England and the country, this one is right up there,” said John Walker, a New Yorker who spends the summer in the area. “And from what I hear, this is only the beginning.”

Hamblett said the new facility will allow the CLC YMCA do so much more than just offer a place to life weights, play basketball and tennis or run on an indoor track. There will be new youth programs, community events, like the community yard sale coming up on May 4 and so much more.

“It’s all about the community, from the people that gave to the people that will use the facility,” Hamblett said. “It’s about having a vision, and there’s a lot of things that happen along the way, but what it took was the leadership to work together to keep marching forward with the plan.”

Despite Phase I of this project being completed, Hamblett said their work isn’t done, and the organization hasn’t stopped fundraising. Phase II of the CLC YMCA expansion will be an aquatic center with a family locker room, something the area has been clamoring for for decades.

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, both sent representatives to the event who shared words of congratulations and support from the senators.

“The completion of the renovation and new addition,” Collins said, “will enable you to carry on the great Y tradition of combining fun with wellness.”

In his prepared statement, King, who toured the transformed facility with Hamblett on Friday, said the celebration was an opportunity to highlight the center’s important work and to honor and thank all who have made valuable contributions to its lasting and continued success.

“I am confident that Central Lincoln County YMCA will continue to achieve outstanding results and make a positive impact on the surrounding community for years to come,” King said.

Following his tour on Friday, King sat in the new welcome area and spoke with members of the media, and he said the new CLC YMCA can be “transformative” for the community.

“This is a place for the kids and a place for seniors and a place for people to come,” King said. “This is an incredible community facility to bring people together.”

The CLC YMCA broke ground on Phase I of the expansion project in May 2017 and held its grand re-opening less than a year after construction began. Hamblett said that is a testament to the dedicated construction workers, contractors, staff and the community.

The new addition includes a large, modern weight room, new locker rooms, an elevated track, spin studio, welcome area, commercial teaching kitchen and lobby area with fireplace and seating for more than a dozen people.

Behind the scenes, there is underground fiber optic cabling that will provide reliable high-speed internet and free WiFi throughout the facility, new insulation, a gas-fired furnace and, maybe the most exciting improvement for many, air conditioning.

Hamblett said she was surprised when she found out that King was coming to tour the facility, and she said the new and improved YMCA is exactly what Maine should be about.

“The impact this is going to have on the youngest to the oldest (people) with healthy living and social responsibility is huge,” Hamblett said. “We are all going to be working together.”

Maine has an aging population, and in order to sustain its economy and retain and recruit more people, especially millennials to the state, places like the CLC YMCA are needed. For a community like Damariscotta and its neighbors, the center’s importance cannot be overstated.

“You give them a weight room and broadband, and you’re halfway there,” King said.

Hamblett said she wants every Realtor selling a home in the region to come to the new YMCA and show it off because it’s definitely a selling point and a draw, especially for young families. This can be the place where kids can be after school and where seniors can recreate, Hamblett said.

King, who grew up in the Washington, D.C., area, said his mother was a big supporter of and volunteer at local YMCAs, but he said he didn’t have anything like the facility in Damariscotta.

“I look at this as more than an athletic facility: It’s really a community center,” King said. “You’re going to come here in November and see people sitting around here talking and watching football.”

With the expansion, the CLC YMCA is partnering with Focus on Agriculture in Rural Maine Schools (FARMS) to utilize the teaching kitchen to show Lincoln County students about cooking with fresh, locally-sourced foods.

Spectrum Generations’ coastal center is also moving to the new facility.

Hamblett said to accommodate the new amenities and provide the best service to the community, three new full-time staffers have been hired, including a healthy living director who will oversee the healthy living space, fitness programs and personal trainers.

As King was leaving the center on Friday, he turned and smiled and expressed his thanks and appreciation for the people who made this community dream a reality.

“This place is amazing and the way the community came together is a real expression of Maine,” King said.