With new furniture, a theatre and new dance floor, the Kenai Recreation and Teen Center has changed a lot. But the changes are not just the new paint and filled bookshelves, it is also a safer place, with rules and structure.
To celebrate the new place for teens, a ribbon cutting will be held at the center at 4 p.m. today.
Tony Travers, Kenai Recreation and Teen Center supervisor remembers a time when the Kenai Teen Center was not a great place to hang out. The Skyview graduate remembers a center that had a scary environment that was intimidating with fighting and drugs. Aside from the negative feel, Travers said the inside was a mess with old furniture and flooring, all in poor shape.
“It had been like that for a long time,” he said.
Today, with center has made a complete turnaround, with a safe environment, new interior and a new attitude
“It is nothing like it used to be,” Travers said.
The facelift and upgrades was due to an $80,000 state legislative grant.
According to Heather Schloeman, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club, the club has a facility agreement with the City of Kenai to manage the daily operations of Kenai Recreation and Teen Center. The city has also supported the club by providing funds to assist with membership dues for the teen members
“The (club) submitted a grant request to the State after recognizing the need to upgrade the facility in order to offer a place that teens want to be while also continuing to provide a place that is safe and supervised,” Schloeman said. “It was through the support of our local legislators such as Representative Mike Chenault that we are able to achieve this.”
Aside from the furniture and items in the teen center, Schloeman said the grant also made it possible to purchase new basketball equipment for the recreation center located downstairs.
“We’d like to encourage teens and parents that haven’t seen or taken advantage of the facility or programs to come check it out,” she said. “It’s approximately 5,000 square feet of awesomeness.”
Today, Travers said he strives for the center to be what teens, 13 to 18, need in Kenai — but the door is also open to all area teens.
“Every teenager needs a place to go,” he said.
He said the center is a great place for kids to come after school, to work on homework during power hour, where teens can use the eight new computers.
“It is a really great environment,” Travers said. “(For power hour) we keep the volume down and games to a minimum.”
After the homework is finished, teens can relax and read books, play board games, watch television or play video games. There is also a new snack bar with a popcorn machine and a pizza warmer.
Travers said an average of 30 teens come to the center on weekdays, from 2 to 9 p.m. On Saturdays, the center is less busy with about 20 regulars, during the hours of 4 to 8 p.m.
The main focus of the center is for teens to feel safe and have fun. Travers said his rules are simple: no drugs, fighting, stealing or cussing.
“(We) keep it relaxed,” he said. “They can be who they want to be.”
While Travers said the center was not a place he frequented as a teen, his role at the center is now important.
“I am kind of like a dad and a brother. They depend on me to take care of them while they are here,” he said.
That role is something he has strived to be.
“It has always been a dream to run the center,” Travers said.
Sara J. Hardan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org