Monday, October 21st marked the official grand re-opening of the Kenai Teen Center with a ribbon cutting by local officials that included Speaker of the House Mike Chenault, Senator Peter Micciche, Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, Kenai City Mayor Pat Porter, Boys & Girls Club president Ryan Tunseth and board member Scott Griffith. The renovations at the Kenai Recreation & Teen Center include new furniture, a theatre, new dance floor, snack bar and computer lab. The new equipment and facelift was made possible by an $80,000 state legislative grant. For several years the facility, owned by the City of Kenai, has been operated by the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula under an agreement with the city, according to Ryan Tunseth. “Our mission is to promote a positive place for kids and anytime we can provide a structured environment for youth to learn and practice skills it’s a perfect fit for our organization,” Tunseth said in an interview with the Dispatch.
The city also supports the center by providing funds to assist with membership dues for teen members according to Mayor Porter. “This is just such a huge improvement for our community and I think all of our citizens should feel very proud of this facility and come by and look at it for themselves. It has gone through a true transformation and the kids love it and you can see that just by looking at their faces as they use all the new equipment, game tables and computers that they can do their homework on. It’s symbolic of what’s happening in our city,” said Mayor Porter. Past President of the Boys & Girls Clubs and Borough Mayor Mike Navarre joined in the celebration and said, “This is an asset for the whole community and we’re looking forward to opening a teen center over in Soldotna and we are very grateful to our legislative delegation that worked to get the funding for this renovation; it’s an investment in our future,” said Navarre. “It is a good investment,” agreed Rep. Chenault. “Anytime we can provide a child with an opportunity that keeps them out of trouble and helps them make good choices is a child that the state won’t have to deal with correctionally in the future and that saves tax payer dollars,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about and hopefully we’ll have similar opportunities open in December in Soldotna, where we’ll offer tutoring for students along with fun activities where professional youth development folks will be helping young people along the way to becoming productive adults who will want to raise their kids here. In the 20 years I’ve been with the Boys & Girls Clubs I’ve seen many youth who came from difficult home environments go on to become doctors and lawyers and business people and are back here contributing to our quality of life,” added Sen. Micciche.