Following a months-long hiatus, meetings to establish a teen center in Soldotna have resumed under the leadership of Sen. Peter Micciche and Soldotna Mayor Nels Anderson.
A previous survey of the community showed 87 percent of respondents citing a need for a teen center in Soldotna. Now that there are more space options, Micciche said the group is “marching forward.”
The first of the recent meetings was held Aug. 22, and about 20 interested teens, parents and residents attended. Two committees where developed, one to find a space for the center and one to make sure the space meets compliance and safety codes.
The group determined the center should be established. If it gets used as much as the group thinks it will, the center may expand in the future. So the group decided to search for a 2,000-square-foot open space.
“An important thing I think is folks need to know is this was carefully measured to have community support,” Micciche said. “This is a pilot project. It’s to determine whether or not people are going to use the service.”
The committees brought back their findings to the Aug. 29 meeting. Kathy Gensel told the group about 14 options the committee considered and discussed the top three choices in greater detail.
Many locations were ruled out because they have too many rooms, are too large or have inadequate parking or a poor location.
Gensel said the teen center would be coded as a community hall. The space size the committee is considering allows for occupancy of about 130 people, and it must meet Americans with Disabilities Act and applicable fire code standards.
Six teens, three from Skyview and three from Soldotna High School, attended the meeting and voiced a list of what they would like to see at a teen center. Ideas ranged from a ping-pong table to a coffee bar to video games. They also listed events they’d like to see, such as art shows, dances and live music performances.
One local vocal and piano instructor is looking forward to helping with live performances at the center. Delana Duncan said she’s very excited about the center and thinks it’s a great opportunity for the rising local music community — especially for teens.
“Whenever I have teens come (to performances), they eat it up. If there’s something centralized in the community, I think teens will love it,” Duncan, said.
SoHi freshman Annie Quinn is looking forward to not only hanging out at the center with her friends on the weekend, but also for her younger cousins to have a place to go when they are old enough.
“People in town have been talking about a teen center for many, many years. … I’m looking forward to it for future generations,” Quinn said.
A $225,000 state grant to the Soldotna Boys and Girls Club for a teen center is funding the project.
“This is an opportunity at a low cost to start a program (in Soldotna),” Micciche said.
The next meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 5. Agenda items include: hours of operation, age restrictions for the center, staffing and security.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.