Kenai center reopens Monday

Posted: Sunday, November 30, 2003

After nearly five months of being shut down, the Kenai Recreation Center and Teen Center will reopen Monday just in time for holiday revelers to start making up for their Thursday activities.

The Boys and Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula, which will manage the facility, has been preparing for the opening for a month, since the Kenai City Council approved awarding a management contract for the facility to the club Nov. 5.

"I'm ready, it's been a month and I'm like, 'Let's just get open already,'" said James Clark, the new rec center director. "I'm looking forward to it, I think it will be fun."

The city closed the center July 10 after the Friends of the Recreation Center group, which opposed the city awarding the management contract to the Boys and Girls Club, sued and got a court order prohibiting the city from continuing the contract with the club.

Since then, the city solicited a request for qualifications from any individuals, businesses or groups interested in running the rec center. The city got three responses and from those chose to award another management contract to the Boys and Girls Club.

Patrons of the center will notice a few changes, starting with the hours of operation. The downstairs recreation portion of the center will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The center will no longer open at 6 a.m. or be open on Sundays.

The upstairs Teen Center facility will be open Monday through Thursday from 2:45 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 2:45 to 11 p.m. and Saturday from 3 to 11 p.m.

The Teen Center has been painted, remodeled and outfitted with a computer lab.

So far, the lab has five computers that are equipped with wireless Internet access, and Clark said he hopes to get more computers.

The Boys and Girls Club will operate all their teen programs out of the Teen Center once it opens, so new activities will be available at the facility, including a job training program that focuses on resume writing and interviewing skills.

When the club's management contract was in the discussion phase, complaints were made that Teen Center patrons would be forced to participate in Boys and Girls Club programs whether they wanted to or not.

Under the city's management of the facility, teens could come to the center and just hang out. Some teens and parents said making the kids do structured activities would prevent some kids from going to the center and instead leave them wandering the streets.

Clark said Teen Center patrons will be encouraged to participate in the club's programs but not be forced to.

"(The programs are) going to be offered, but they're not mandatory, by any means," he said. "They can still come and hang out."

Teens attending the center through the end of this year will not have to be Boys and Girls Club members, but starting in January they will have to sign up for the $20-a-year membership.

Patrons of the recreation portion of the facility will be required to fill out a form for insurance purposes before they can use the facility, but it is not a membership form and there is no cost associated with it.

The club has hired 10 employees to staff the center; two full-time personnel and eight part-time workers, including two teen aides.

As far as use of the recreation facility, the fee schedule will be the same as it was before the center closed and the same programs will be offered, Clark said.

Clark said the changes made to the facility were done to the Teen Center rather than the recreation area.

Other than thinking about adding new programs like a yoga class, things have not changed in the lower level.

"Everything is going to be the same downstairs," he said.

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