I n mid-January, children at the Boys & Girls Club in Meridian will have a brand new gymnasium to play in. Clubhouse director Robyn Ure could not be more excited.

“It’s unbelievable,” she said, looking out the window at the almost 9,000-square-foot structure.

“I know all of the struggles that we face year-round with trying to just properly house as many children as we can, and trying to deal with 16-degree weather and snow and ice and dark, and in the summertime it’s over 100 degrees before noon,” Ure said. “So it’s awesome just to be able to have this extra space so the kids can get their extra energy out. … It’s so much more than just a gym. You can bring in a lot of sports, athletic programs for the kids. A lot of our kids and families can’t afford to do that kind of stuff.”

The clubhouse serves an average of 220 kids a day but has an enrollment of about 500, she said. The waiting list during the summer ranges from 60 to over 100 kids. The expansion — which includes a new teen center — will double the space, opening up room in the current facility for seven more computers, a larger library and education center, and a STEM room where students can do hands-on science projects.

The project cost came to $2.5 million, thanks in part to in-kind donations for design and construction work. The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation gave $1 million, and the city of Meridian pitched in $500,000.

“The city realizes that the Boys & Girls Club is serving some of the most at-risk kids in the community, and really without the club, the city would have to pick up a lot of that cost,” Boys & Girls Clubs of Ada County Executive Director Colleen Braga said. “They understand the value of the club in the community.”

When the gym is done, the club has agreed to let the city use it in the evenings for Parks and Recreation programs.

“We kind of raised the funds in record time,” Braga said. “There were a lot of folks who contributed and made it possible. It seems to us like it can’t open soon enough, but really it’s been a record amount of time.”

The Albertson Foundation brought in Cannon Design to help design the teen center, Braga said, which is one factor in the delayed opening. The anticipated open date for the new facility had been the end of 2015. The gym is slated to open later this month, and the teen center is slated for mid-March.

But the wait will be worth it, from what Braga says. Having an attractive, unique space for teens is important because they choose whether or not to be there — and there are a lot of other options, some not so good, competing for their attention, she said.

“This is their own space, their own entrance, just a cool space for them to be,” Braga said. “(The gym) will be beautiful as well. We were able to put in really great multiuse gym flooring and really do a top-notch job, with the electronic score boards, retractable basketball hoops and the whole shot.”

Ure said she can’t wait to see the looks on the children’s faces when they step into the new facility.

“Really, I’ve just been in awe by seeing so many people pulled together to make this happen for the kids,” she said. “A lot of our kids don’t have a lot, so this is a very special place for them.”

Braga anticipates a grand opening celebration for the gym and teen center to take place by the end of March.


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