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Brooklyn Center aims high with rec center

  • Article by: MARIA ELENA BACA
  • Star Tribune
  • August 14, 2012 - 12:56 PM

At Brooklyn Center's newest youth hangout, modest beginnings belie big plans.

The Brooklyn Center Youth Recreation Center, a $654,000 building that went up over the summer between Brooklyn Center High School and its football fields, is a collaboration between the city and the Brooklyn Center School District. Although it still is only a shell, lacking a proper floor and other amenities, city and school officials hope to have it open for business within the next few weeks. Their larger hope is that it will offer a place for teens to interact and be active.

The space is much-needed, said Keith Lester, the recently retired schools superintendent, because existing gym space often is monopolized by scheduled events, including youth and adult sports leagues. The city has a nice pool facility, but it has lacked indoor gym space.

Officials expect that between after-school and weekend programming and spontaneous gatherings, the building will be Teen Central.

"Our goal is for that place to be lit up," Lester said. "We want to have something going on up to 40 hours a week. ... The dream is for kids to have a place to go any time they're not in school."

Jim Glasoe, Brooklyn Center's director of community activities, recreation and services, said he hopes the center will become "a focal point for the community as far as recreation. ... Indoor recreation space is at a premium for communities."

The pole barn-type structure, whose style coincidentally is called a "Lester building," is nearly 7,000 square feet. It was built using a $304,000 Hennepin County youth sports grant -- from revenues generated as part of the Twins ballpark sales tax -- plus district and other funds totaling a little more than $350,000. No city money went to the project.

Although the original plan was to create a space that could be used by a spectrum of generations, the grant's conditions specify that it should be used for youth activities, Lester said.

The school district and the city are in discussions with other potential partners who would share the space, including Timber Bay, an outreach program serving at-risk youth, and the youth wellness/leadership programs Youth Determined to Succeed and the Sanneh Foundation.

The next steps include fundraising for needed equipment, including a sound system, a movie screen, and first and foremost, a good multipurpose floor, Lester said.

Still, he said, he hopes the center -- even with its concrete slab flooring -- will be up and running by the time school starts in September.

He noted that the building will be a valuable addition to the Brooklyns Bridge Alliance for Youth program, a partnership with Brooklyn Park to provide opportunities for teens.

"Now they'll have a space in Brooklyn Center," he said. "Most activities have been in Brooklyn Park, because isn't anything in Brooklyn Center. The sky's the limit."

Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409

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