By Lauren Zaepfel
The City of North Tonawanda's Youth Center will have a new home this fall.
Beginning Oct. 7, the Lumber City Church building at 383 Vandervoort St. will house the Youth Center and offer several amenities.
The Youth Center space will be on the upper floor of the building, while the church will have first access to the lower level.
One of the major benefits the new space offers is a full-size gym, equipped with pullout bleachers, which is something the previous location lacked.
"The gym space is huge and that will be wonderful for all the things that we can have," said Patty Brosius, director of North Tonawanda's Department of Youth, Recreation and Parks.
"Anyone who's been in our previous gym, it's a very small gym," explained North Tonawanda's Youth Coordinator Alex Domaradzki.
Some of the many activities to be offered in the gym include basketball games, soccer clinics and other sports and games.
In addition to the gym, the new location features a lounge area, which will be equipped with couches, chairs and a big-screen TV.
A computer lab will be set up in a classroom space. A recreation room, complete with a foosball table and other games, will also be available.
The space also offers "a full-service kitchen that we'll have access to if we want to make meals for the kids or their families," Domaradzki said.
Downstairs offers an auditorium, which can be used by the Youth Center, if available.
The Youth Center also offers educational programs, including a video production program, theater club and cooking classes.
The Youth Center staff "Keep the activities very much child-oriented," City of North Tonawanda Mayor Arthur G. Pappas said. "There are simple family events. They always try something new. But they have other things besides just games and whatnot. They also provide tutoring for students of all ages, and they will help children with their homework during the school year."
Domaradzki said, "We do stuff that gets them exposed to different things and it's all free."
Programs offered through the Youth Center are open to all youth in North Tonawanda. Programs for children in kindergarten through sixth grade are offered in the daytime, while programs for older children in grades seventh through 12 are offered later in the afternoon and into the evening.
Domaradzki said the Youth Center provides the city's children with a "safe place to go and hang out with friends."
He added, "It's extremely important to allow kids the opportunity to use their time productively as opposed to just being on their own out on the streets causing trouble."
Domaradzki said the new building is also well lit and in a nice location. "There's security cameras that monitor each of three rooms as well as the parking lots," he said.
Pappas said the location was "ideal, because it's easily accessible from all areas of the city."
Also, the rent is cheaper than the previous location on Grant Street, Domaradzki said.
Earlier this month, the city agreed to pay Lumber City Church $800 per month in rent for a two-year lease of the new space. The lease will extend from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, 2019. The rental fee includes utilities and janitorial and maintenance services for the building.
Lumber City Church's lead pastor, the Rev. Chad Rieselman, was instrumental in bringing the Youth Center to the church's building.
"Our church has always had its eye on helping to be a life-giving source for our city," Rieselman said. "We owned a property on East Robinson Street that wasn't conducive to that."
He explained the church moved into the new building in March to help provide a permanent space for the Youth Center.
"We sold our church so we could help to rescue the city program; that's literally why we did this," Rieselman said.
He said, "Our hope is that some day the lease will be fore zero dollars," so that the church can "literally give" the space to the Youth Center.
"So its not just used as a church on Sundays, but something that the entire community can use," Rieselman added.
He added, "We will share space on Sundays on the second floor, but otherwise we're going to stay downstairs. They're going to stay upstairs and we'll share spaces as needed between the two."
Overall, Pappas said, "Each time a move is made, you hope it's for the better. And we think that's been the case right along and this is no exception, because this facility is larger and it has some amenities that, I think, are going to help benefit the whole program that the Youth Center tries to maintain."