About two dozen kids turned out for the youth centre's re-opening — and it wasn't all about skateboarding.

Youth Centre celebrates new beginning

After extensive renovations the Nelson and District Youth Centre re-opened on July 4.

Kids, politicians, and Nelson youth centre staff got together Saturday and celebrated the grand re-opening of the centre with a barbecue, games, and the opening of the new indoor skatepark.

“We have brought about some really significant changes in this building,” says the youth centre’s Jonny Salerno. “We will be able to expand our programming, and all the services we deliver are going to be in a cleaner, nicer better place to visit.”

“It is very nice,” said Jacob Erickson, 14. “The skatepark has gotten smaller but better, with fewer ramps. Before it was all ramps. Now is it more street skating and it is smoother.”

Erickson has been coming to the youth centre since he was eight, and welcomed the other changes to the centre as well.

“Not everybody skateboards,” he said. “There’s more room for other activities.”

From left: Mayor Deb Kozak, city councillor Valerie Warmington, city chief financial officer Colin McClure, youth centre staff Fitz McGoey and Marty Clemens, city councillor Janice Morrison, youth centre staff member Jonny Salerno. Photo by Bill Metcalfe.

The renovations, which Salerno says increased the space by about 30 per cent, included the creation of a multi-purpose room, new tables and laptop computers, a larger lounge and meeting room, a space for adults with small children, an upgraded dance studio, new sports equipment, improved art gallery and supplies, improved jam room and equipment, and new signage.

“The community has put its heart into this renovation,” said staff member Fitz McGoey. “Local businesses have been outstanding, especially Home Hardware who have gone above and beyond.”

Photo by Marty Clemens

Although the focus Saturday was the unveiling of the skate park, Salerno and McGoey say the youth centre is about a lot more than skateboarding.

“We have vastly improved the skating experience, but now we have the space to deliver programs, so whether it is employment training, art, or music, we can deliver those things,” Salerno said. “It’s a place for all youth.”

“In the court now we have two basketball nets,” McGoey said, “and it can completely closed off for ball hockey, soccer, dodgeball, a huge variety of things we could not have done before because the space was too open, and we also have ten laptop computers in the multi-purpose room so we can invite community groups to come in to have their meetings.”

Salerno added: “We have been talking about creating a culture here, rebranding the place. We don’t want this to be just about skateboarding, we want everyone in the community to come. I like to see younger children here — start at a young age, create their attachment to the place, mentor them, give them a safe place to be in and then watch them grow up here and be the leaders of tomorrow.”

Bryce Planden, 15, who has been coming to the youth centre since he was 10, said he is “super excited for it. It has nice colours. It’s really welcoming.”

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