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Changes are in the works at West End Building

by: Jonathan House, Nick Fackrell takes aim while playing pool at the Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation Teen Center in the West End Building earlier this summer.

People may be surprised at the changes going on in the old Safeco building on Kruse Way. Now called the West End Building, the white building has run the gauntlet of ideas as the city of Lake Oswego has and continues still to debate its future.

Since the city bought the building in April of 2006 from Safeco, there has been talk of turning portions of it into, among other things, a community center, a library, city hall and police department.

City officials developed a steering committee to help design what amenities the community would want in a community center. Committee members gathered together a group of 20 analysts who debated, discussed and learned what the community wanted.

Obviously one component for a successful community center is to have youth involved. To find out how best to go about attracting them, the city of Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation Department put together a Youth Action Council leadership board comprised of high school students that have been coming up with ideas for the last 4 years.

It was then decided that the Parks and Recreation Department would open a new teen center in the building's lower level called the McKenzie Lounge. All of the rooms in the building are named after rivers, such as the Willamette.

The Teen Center will have its official grand opening Friday from 3 to 9 p.m. The lounge boasts a pool table, ping pong table, big screen TV, video gaming equipment, couches, tables and chairs for teens. Among these amenities include programs for members such as Drop-In hours five days a week with activities such as crafts and going to service clubs such as the Humane Society.

The department is also looking at finding people with specialties who are willing to help teach kids their craft, such as a professional artist or specialty dance instructor. They are also hosting the first Java Jam, a series of three concerts with live bands at the local coffee shop My Place in Lake Oswego.

Terri Fackrell, parks and recreation department's recreation supervisor, is excited about the new teen center.

'I think they're really going to like it,' Fackrell said. 'It's really comfortable. And parents will like it, too, because it is supervised and we have mentors. There is also a job info board where the community can provide resources and assets.'

Department leaders originally applied for a 2-year grant but were told by donors that they should really look at a 5-year one because of the scope of the project. Potential donors also said that they wanted to see more commitment and buy-in with the teens before they would approve it.

Since applying, the YAC has worked hard to raise money through fundraising for the teen center. After raising $1,500 in their inagural golf tournament in 2006, YAC members were able to double that amount this year.

A local interior designer also donated her time to meet with teens and the Parks and Recreation Department to design the layout. The department received donations while also getting furniture from other offices. It also received funds from the Lake Oswego Asset Builders Club to create the space.

Sunny Yepez, the new Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation Department Teen Program Coordinator, is also enthusiastic about the center.

'The best part about it is that it's free and welcoming to the community,' Yepez said. 'We're continually taking feedback on each program and want to do themes for each day, like having a movie day, an adventure day, etc.'

When asked if the department is worried at all about getting enough advertising or reaching enough people, neither Fackrell or Yepez seemed at all doubtful.

'Teen programs are a lot of word-of-mouth,' Fackrell said. 'Right now we are working with the media, we have a nice-looking building with a ton of outdoor space for things like barbecues or a game of flag football. And the West End Building is in one of the most populated areas of town, with close access to I-5 and Lake Grove if someone wants to grab a bite to eat and come over after school.'

Jessica Lee, YAC member and Lake Oswego High School senior, is also sure the new center will be a big hit, especially with the younger crowd.

'It's a good way for kids to have a place to just come and hang out, especially for junior high kids that don't have as much mobility as high school students do,' Lee said. 'It's also a good place to do homework if you need a quiet environment. For finals I usually go to Borders and study. Since the teen center is so close to my house I may just go on a run and then go do homework or something.'

The one thing that Fackrell and Yepez both recognized as a major barrier is funding. Both agreed that the program could use more support financially to do things like stay open more hours during the weekend and be open on days when schools are closed.

Right now participants involved are looking forward to the grand opening where people can finally see all the work and planning that has gone into making the center a viable place to be.

'It's a way for the community to help be a village for the kids,' Fackrell said.

Membership is required for the After School Activities Program (ASAP) Drop-In hours from 3 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. ASAP members also receive a 15 percent discount on classes held at the West End Building. Membership is for ages 12 to 14 and is $10 for residents and $15 for non-residents.Bands and sponsors are needed for the Java Jam on Oct. 13, Nov. 10 and Dec. 8. It will be located at My Place at 3975 Mercantile Drive. Interested parties should call 503-697-6589 or e-mail the Java Jam Team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The teen-dedicated space at the city of Lake Oswego's West End Building, dubbed the McKenzie Lounge, will celebrate its' grand opening Friday from 3 until 9 p.m.

Through fundraising done by Youth Action Council members, donations and other teen programs support the McKenzie Lounge, which is available as a space for teens to socialize.

The McKenzie Lounge has pool and ping pong tables, a big screen TV, video gaming equipment, couches, chairs and tables.

Use of the center is free.

The lounge will be open weeknights from 6 to 9 p.m. for ages 12 through 18. Fridays it is open to junior high students only, from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays admission is restricted to high school students only from 7 to 11 p.m. The West End Building is located at 4101 Kruse Way.

ASAP Drop-In hours are outlined

ASAP Drop-In is a program for ages 12 to 14 from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday (2:30 p.m. on Mondays). Activities include games, crafts, homework help, video game competitions, sports fun, clubs and other activities. A small snack is provided daily. Transportation is provided from Waluga Junior High School via the Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation mini bus. Lake Oswego Junior High students can ride a school bus from the junior high to the West End Building. All other junior high students from outside schools are also welcome to participate.