The Connection Community Church’s new building on Route 301 has been 10 years in the planning.

On Saturday, those plans came to fruition when a groundbreaking was held for the new church on U.S. 301, just north of Middletown. The new building should open in late 2018.

The church will move from Green Street in downtown Middletown, across from the Volunteer Hose Company.

“It’s been wonderful to be located in the heart of Middletown and even though we’ll be a few miles outside the city limits, we still believe we’re called to serve Middletown, Odessa, Townsend and beyond,” said Kari Jones, co-pastor with her husband, Alan.

About 24,000 vehicles a day pass by the new site, she said.

The church bought the land for the new building in 2007. But the economic crash made the church wait until it was more economically feasible to do the project, Alan Jones said.

But thanks to donations and a mortgage, the church was able to implement its plans more recently.

The new building will be 16,000 to 17,000 square-feet, up from the estimated 13,000 to 14,000 square-feet in the existing building. And there will be more room for people in the sanctuary, with capacity for about 350, up from about 250. Meeting rooms, classrooms, administrative offices, and a multi-purpose room, for children and youth are also in the new building.

Owning the new building provides a sense of a permanent church and it will get more visibility because it sits on U.S. 301, the pastors said. And the new church will have grass on the property instead of the large amount of concrete around the existing building.

Even though the new building has lots of features, the pastors see it as part of their mission.

“Our mission is to connect people with Jesus and the new life He offers and we do this through workship, small groups and outreach to the community,” Kari Jones said.

Now, the church leases the space in the existing building, which was a warehouse. It used to house a bowling alley, lumber yard and an electrical supply business.

The new building features an open lobby and improved gym/garage. It has a dedicated office space with a conference room, classrooms and a kitchenette.

The building is designed with future expansion in mind: both hallways of classrooms can be removed and then added on the exterior of the building, enlarging the sanctuary. Other possibilities include a kitchen, multipurpose room, expanded offices and additional classrooms.

And church officials hope to develop the acreage around the church to include ball fields and walking paths.

Connection Community Church, which is a United Methodist Church, has a motto of “Just Show Up.”

“You don’t have to wear any special clothes. You don’t have to be someone you aren’t,” said Alan Jones.

“You can take off the mask,” his wife said.

People interested in donating to the church and new building are asked to make their monetary donations through the church’s website, justshowup.church. There’s a tab for “give online.”