PLEASANT HILL -- The young people who weighed in early on the design of the Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District's new teen center had one request: Don't make it look like a school.
It doesn't. The open, bright, thoroughly modern space features colorful furniture, game tables, a big-screen TV, a snack bar -- and a hip glass garage door.
"We spent a lot of time listening to the kids about what they wanted, and I hope that comes through when their peers start using the center," said Katrina Hunn, recreation supervisor for teen programs.
The district is throwing a grand opening party for the teen center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at 147 Gregory Lane.
At 5,000 square feet, the airy space is more than three times the size of the "glorified closet" that served as the previous teen center. Built in the 1950s, the old building was so small the district primarily used it during the summer, holding classes in other buildings.
The new teen center has pingpong, pool and foosball tables, a computer workstation, lockers, Wi-Fi, a movie screen that drops down from the ceiling, two offices and a conference room.
"My hope the whole time that I've been here is that we could provide a space for teens they could be proud of," Hunn said. "The space we had before just wasn't fair."
The teen center will be open to middle school students after school until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Hunn said the daily program will include free time, 20 minutes of group physical activity, time to do homework and play time with board games, video games and crafts, among other activities. The district plans to hire a bus driver to move kids from Valley View Middle School and Pleasant Hill Middle School and a staff member will escort kids from Sequoia Middle School.
Kids can drop in at the center for up to eight hours per week at no cost. If their children want to visit more frequently, parents can pay $9 per day or $150 per month. Adult staff members will supervise the young people. High school student volunteers will tutor, run the front desk and work in the large snack bar, serving up nachos, popcorn, pizza and other treats.
College Park High School junior Helena Strand, who is the recreation district's teen council chairwoman, thinks the teen center will be a refuge for middle school kids.
"Now, they're going to have something productive and fun to do and a safe environment to hang out," said Strand, 15.
Funds for the project came from the $28 million bond voters passed in 2009 to build new teen, senior and community centers, upgrade the fields at Pleasant Oak Park and remodel restrooms at several parks. The $3.5 million teen center building, which includes storage space and public restrooms that are accessible from Pleasant Hill Park, is the first of the three bond projects to be completed. The senior center is scheduled to open in December and the community center is slated for completion in 2013.
"It's exciting. I go in the teen center, I go through the senior center and I actually get goose bumps because this is so cool," said Bob Berggren, recreation district general manager. "These buildings are terrific and they're going to be a great addition."
There were a few bumps in the road from design to construction. When the bid for the teen center came in over budget, the board members reluctantly dropped the expensive faux stone that would have graced the building's exterior.
"That was a tough decision, deciding what do you take out to reduce the cost, but yet not reduce the functionality of the building," said Dennis Donaghu, board chairman.
Hunn said she's already fielding calls from people who want to teach classes in the new space, and she believes the possibilities are endless.
"I'm really looking forward to developing more programs to run out of here," Hunn said. "I'm very excited, and I'm very proud of what we've accomplished."
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.
What: Pleasant Hill teen center grand opening
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday
Where: 147 Gregory Lane, at Pleasant Hill Park
For more information, call the Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District at 925-682-0896.