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Kids, Community To Be Under One Roof

As Featured in the Kenosha News by Matthew Olson

The former Christian Youth Council at 1715 52nd St., now part of the Boys and Girls Club of Kenosha, is only two blocks from the club’s future home at 14th Avenue and 52nd Street.

The change in location will not be dramatic. But the contents of the new building will be vastly different.

All operations from the CYC building and the club’s other facility at 3712 50th St. will move to the new center.

Ground for the 79,000-square-foot building will be broken at 4 p.m. Tuesday, and the club hopes to move in within a year.

While the building is estimated to cost $9.7 million, the organization wants to raise about $13 million to provide for the building and an endowment fund.

The city provided a $5 million donation in 2007. The campaign has mostly been conducted with large contributors, but Wally Graffen, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club, said the effort will become more public at some point.

“We’re very fortunate to have so much community backing,” Graffen said.

A Look Inside

The first floor of the new community center will allow for expanded programs for children, including a computer lab, a full-service kitchen and three multi-purpose rooms, which can serve 30 to 50 people each.

The gym will be the size of two high school gymnasiums, with room for multiple basketball and volleyball courts.

“It’s almost tripling our current gym capacity,” Graffen said.

There’s also a full-size indoor soccer field.

Soccer “draws in such a wide range of kids, and the field brings in a whole wide range of sports,” Graffen said. “More people play soccer than any other sport. It’s a big draw.”

Graffen said the field could be used for indoor football, a plus for the strong football programs already run through the Boys and Girls Club.

Also on the first floor is an outpost for the Kenosha Police Department. Specific use of the space is still being determined, but Graffen said police presence was a goal from the start.

Teen Center

The second floor will be a teen center. No such space exists in Kenosha, and Graffen said creating this feature was a priority.

“We need a dedicated space for people between 13 and 18 years old,” Graffen said.

The space includes a video game room, a space for making art and a small theater, which can have additional seating for communitywide performances. A computer lab, teen-run concession stand and learning center are included.

“We had a teen focus group for what to have here, and their focus is different than what we thought,” Graffen said. “We didn’t have an art space before that group; we never even thought about that.”

Kenosha Police Chief John Morrissey sees a big benefit in the teen center.

“I am optimistic that it will result in reductions in some of the juvenile incidents we have from 2:30 to 10 p.m.,” Morrissey said. “There’s not a lot of places for youth to go and hang out as a group.”

The second floor also includes multiple offices for local non-profit organizations. The Spanish Center is the only organization to commit to the space, but Graffen said arrangements are being finalized with other organizations.

A pair of parking lots buffer the building. The site is accessible by several bus lines and is near the Kenosha Metra station.

“What else could you ask for in a location?” Graffen said.

Neighborhood Boost

That location — near downtown, near an area of some blight — is important for future development in the area, Kenosha Mayor Keith Bosman said.

“Just having the land that was packaged for the Boys and Girls Club … and all the activity that comes with it will be a great improvement for that area and that neighborhood,” Bosman said.

Bosman said he hopes features such as the indoor soccer facility can lure tournaments and bring visitors to the area. And he sees the facility as a gathering place for all of Kenosha’s residents.

“It will be an amenity that is enjoyed by people throughout the community,” Bosman said. “No matter what age group you are, there will be some kind of programming for everyone in the community. … And it is certainly an investment in our children.”

Graffen said the club hopes to add baseball and softball fields at the site.

Inclusive Building

Graffen said the goal is to make the building as inclusive as possible.

“You shouldn’t have a facility directed for just one purpose,” Graffen said. “This is for every walk of life.”

Graffen is looking forward to seeing the years of planning become a reality over the next few months, but mostly for being able to see people realize the potential of the building.

“I so look forward to seeing the first time that a kid swipes their card and starts using the game room or shooting hoops,” Graffen said. “That’s what I look forward to the most. We all just look forward to seeing kids take advantage of this facility.”