HAMPTON, N.H..- New Hampshire’s Hampton Beach has survived years of severe weather and a number of fires. Now, it’s celebrating a much-needed face-lift.

Beachgoers and state and town officials are cheering about $14.5 million in recently completed renovations to the beach area. They include the construction of a new Seashell entertainment complex and visitors center; the overhaul of bathhouses at the north and south end of the promenade; shady spots for sitting; and an improved walkway.

There are new LED streetlights, large sail-shaped “Sunfish” lining the crosswalks along nearby Ocean Boulevard and water-spouting columns to help people wash the sand off their feet.

Even the World War II memorial on the beach, a granite statue of a woman holding a wreath in honor of those lost at sea, has an updated look. Construction workers extended the sea wall, circling it around the statute, to make it fit in better with the landscape.

“I love the shell,” said Beverly Horton, a 13-year resident of Seabrook. “We’ll just have to see how the crowds handle it and how the summer goes. I’m hoping it puts Hampton Beach on the map.”

A ceremony marking the improvements took place Friday.

An art show will take place today, along with entertainment on the Seashell stage. The Hampton Beach Historical Society also is presenting a time line of scenes from the beach, including a look at swimsuits through the years.

“While tourism is vital to the economic engine of our state, and Hampton Beach is a critical part of our tourism industry, there were some who said we should not invest in revitalizing the seashell,” Gov. John Lynch said in remarks prepared for the event. “But we made it a point to invest $14 million from the state capital budget to do this long overdue rehabilitation.”

He added, “Not only do we have facilities here that all of us in New Hampshire can be proud of, but I truly believe this will continue to revitalize the entire beach for several years to come.”

In a state with only 18 miles of coastline, the 1½-mile strip has been a popular spot for generations of New Englanders and tourists who don’t want to put up with Cape Cod traffic.

Once a barren place used for farming hay, it transitioned into a busy area with beachwear shops, arcades and fried dough and pizza stands and motels. It has been the sight of the annual “Miss Hampton Beach” contest, a children’s week, a regatta, and in recent years, a singing competition.

The beach received a national ranking several years ago as one of the cleanest.

The beachside businesses have been victims of major fires in the past, including one in February 2010, that took out an entire block of businesses. That has left some vacant spots along Ocean Boulevard, but also a desire by town officials to upgrade the look of the community.

“I hear from people all the time who haven’t been up here in a while that they can’t believe how nice it looks,” said Bob Mitchell, owner of the Ocean Boulevard souvenir shop Mrs. Mitchell’s Gifts, which reopened last year after being destroyed by the 2010 fire. “It’s been a huge effort by the state, the district and everybody to kind of rejuvenate things, and they’ve done a great job.”