Another activity center for teen-agers is being planned in Spokane, and the effort to develop this onewhich is expected to teach teens how to operate a businessis being headed by Steve Livingstone, owner of Bumpers Fun Centers here, along with Mayor John Talbott and various Spokane social service organizations.
Livingstone, who is acting as a consultant to the proposed project, is eyeing two or three possible sites in downtown Spokane to build the first of what might be three such centers in the Spokane area. The downtown center, which tentatively would be called Defenders, is expected to have about 20,000 square feet of floor space and to cost as much as $3.5 million, which would have to be raised through grants and donations.
Its unclear when work could begin on the project, Livingstone says. A site and funding still must be secured.
We already have all of the human resources we need to make this thing happen, Livingstone says.
He adds, We want to create a clean, safe environment for teens, and at Bumpers, weve had success marketing that. At Bumpers, we hire kids from the nearby neighborhood, and they learn the importance of coming to work on time and they learn social skills. But you have to mix it in with fun.
The proposed activity center could include such features as:
A themed dance club designed and operated by teen-agers. Livingstone envisions volunteers teaching teens how to be disc jockeys and how to record their own compact discs, which could be played at the dance club.
A game room in which air hockey, pool, and table soccer tournaments would be held.
A high-tech computer lab, a conceptual design for which is modeled after the bridge of the starship Enterprise from the Star Trek programs, and study rooms. Its hoped that classes would allow teens to receive certification to operate Microsoft programs by the time they graduate from high school.
An upscale coffee shop or concessions area that would be run by teens.
A rock-climbing wall.
A small movie theater that would show films, some of which would have been written, directed, or filmed by the teen-agers at the center.
I want this to be a place where kids can pursue their interests in a safe way. If theres a kid who likes to play music, why not show him how to use the digital equipment to make his own CD and teach him how to market it, Livingstone says. We want this to be a place thats fun, but an underlying goal is to teach them entrepreneurial skills, too.
To develop the center, the projects organizers likely will form a nonprofit entity that will have a board of directors, as well as an advisory board of up to 12 Spokane teen-agers. Teen-agers will operate the center like a business, he says.
Livingstone says the nonprofit entity would seek grants, donations, and corporate sponsorships to fund the project. Revenues from the center would be used to pay employees and instructors, as well as to buy new equipment for the center. Any profits would be put toward the opening of additional teen centers, he says.
Defenders is separate from a facility that a group of Spokane businessmen is planning to open here for the Boys & Girls Club of America, a nonprofit organization thats supported by federal funds and private grants. That project also needs funding and a location, but it is expected to have a recreational and educational focus that will include features such as computer and art labs, as well as mentoring for homework and sports. That group has said that it would like to put its club in an existing building in a low-income neighborhood east of Division, within walking distance of an elementary school.
Renovations at Bumpers
Meanwhile, Bumpers Fun Centers is spending about $150,000 to renovate its 30,000-square-foot location at North-Town Mall. Some of the renovation work has involved adding some of the same components planned for the Defenders teen center, to try out the concepts.
I kind of see Bumpers as a laboratory. Ive basically been trying out ways to reach out to kids, and now Ive been given the opportunity to work these ideas into a teen center, Livingstone says.
Work nearly has been completed on a dance club at Bumpers to be called the D Zone. Also, work is expected to begin by the end of this month on a 30-foot tall climbing wall thats to be erected near the malls elevator.
Livingstone says that he has been working with Timon Behan, owner of Wild Walls Inc., to develop the planned climbing wall and a bouldering cave. The cave will look like it has been carved from rock. Young kids or novice rock climbers will scale the walls inside to get a feel for rock climbing. Even at its highest point, climbers only will be about three feet from the ground, which will be covered with a padded mat, so they should be able to drop to the ground without injury, Livingstone says.
The climbing wall, which will look like a snow-capped mountain peak, is expected to have about 10 different routes that children and adults can climb. Livingstone says he expects about five people to be able to climb the wall at one time.
Bumpers teen dance club, on the other hand, is being made to look like a nuclear waste dump, Livingstone says. The dance club already is surrounded by 8-foot-tall concrete walls, the front of which appears to have been blown out.
The dance club will feature black floors, graffiti-covered walls painted by the best teen-age street artists Livingstone can find, special lights that shine plutonium symbols on the walls and ceiling, and fog machines. The club also will have a stage on which garage bands can play.
If you want to reach out to teen-agers, you have to get into their arena, Livingstone says.
The club should be completed by the middle of this month, while the climbing wall and cave is expected to be completed by Thanksgiving, Livingstone says.
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