Almost a decade ago, youth in New Westminster said they wanted a dedicated space of their own. The city had programs and special spaces for children and seniors, but little for teens. Middle schoolers and high schoolers said they felt out of place in public but adult-oriented spaces. They needed a place they could just hang out.
For a long time, there was little political traction for the idea. It was in the 5- to 10-year plan, but there was no budget to support it. Finally, the city youth committee presented a formal motion to council with city staff with help from Councillor Jonathan Cote, and the plan started to move forward. In 2008 there was an actual budget allocated to the project, and then in blessed timing, new grant funding options became available for federal and provincial funds. With $2.5 million committed from all three levels of government, the new Youth Centre @ Moody Park was a go.
In two weeks, the facility will host a grand opening celebration for youth, donors, city stakeholders and the public. The September 15 shindig is from 3:30-5:30pm, but here’s a quick virtual tour:
The new youth centre is an airy, casual space designed with input from the teens it is to serve, from amenities to paint colours. The main attraction is the lounge area, with lots of movable seating, floor-to-ceiling windows with a view of Moody Park and a vaulted ceiling.
The youth involved in the design of the space really wanted to have a kitchen, but it almost didn’t make it into the final plans due to budget concerns. Thankfully, sponsors came through and donated much of the equipment.
An item on the initial wish list that did get cut back was the gym. Instead, a flexible rec room space can be used for sports, dance, or other activities. This room is where the old washrooms for Moody Park used to be. There is also a small adjacent weight room.
Because Century House closes at 4pm most days, and school doesn’t let out until 3, the plan is to allow Century House and the Youth Centre to share some amenities, including the computer lab,
But the most important goal of the space is just to provide a safe place for the kids to hang out.