Soldotna teen center organizers looking for space

Still on the drawing board

The idea of a teen center facility in Soldotna remains just that.
However, efforts are continuing to pile up while the teen center committee looks to create partnerships between various youth-concerned and faith-based organizations.

"It's always much more difficult when you do these projects with essentially private dollars," said Peter Micciche, Soldotna Mayor and chair of the committee. "It's not a public dollar thing."

Micciche said the teen center initially will be a pilot project for the first year to see if there is a need for such a facility to exist in Soldotna. So far the committee, which has about 30 active participants, has been looking at several different spaces, but that aspect of the project is tough, Micciche said, because the committee is looking for a low-cost space in an accessible location to the area's youth.

"We have yet to identify someone that wants to contribute for the first year for the pilot project at a much lower cost," Micciche said.

There has been some money raised in order to possibly purchase space at advertised rates instead of having it donated, Micciche said.

Purchasing the space at advertised rates might be the way to go, he said.

Micciche said the committee would prefer about 2,000 square feet for adequate healthy activities such as fooseball, ping-pong and billiards, but a smaller space would be OK too.

"We also want a place for kids to gather, with some music and maybe some help with homework and just a safe place for them to go where they don't have to travel far," he said.

Once the space issue is ironed out, the rest of the process should push ahead. Micciche said there are qualified individuals trained in youth programs and youth development to help keep the teen center moving forward. There are also groups that have expressed interest in helping convert the rented space to what is needed for the center.

Micciche said he hopes the teen center project can take off much like the Soldotna Creek Park effort did where Soldotna residents raised money on their own for the park and showed the city the need exists and there was community support behind it.

"We said if you really feel there's support for this project, and you go out and raise the funds and then we will provide a place where there was an old playground for you to install yours," Micciche said about the process. "And clearly they raised over $200,000 in one winter and built the facility with 900 volunteers in one week."

The next teen center committee meeting is scheduled for June 21 at 6 p.m. at Soldotna City Hall. Micciche said the committee will be inviting all of the various interested groups that may be willing to lend their assistance to the project.

"We'll be seeing if we have the support to rent a place for full market value and get moving," he said.

The project has the potential to be very successful, he said.

"I think generally you get much greater support from the community when they realize you're proving up on a need instead of making another program that may or may not have its need demonstrated," he said. "I think we're going about this the right way."

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