West Center growing into new location


West Center staffer Diane Valdez (left) guides Heather Mehl and her children (Gabriel in her arms, Josiah and Johnnie) down a hallway during the open house at the center's new location Aug. 28.
Westside Pioneer photo
Taking advantage of the space at the former Buena Vista school site, the city-owned West Center is offering a steadily increasing number of programs, classes and activities, Executive Director E.D. Rucker says.
       Something new is sports in the gym. For now, what's available are badminton, basketball, ping pong and possibly volleyball. Each has certain limitations. A volleyball court could be set up (depending on equipment and other factors) for the monthly “teen nights” at the center (which are free and open only to middle-schoolers); badminton is an adult night class ($16 for eight sessions); basketball is also a night class, open only to women 55 and up ($12 for 12 sessions); and ping-pong is free, but the table is only available Mondays from 1 to 3 p.m.
       Rucker said he would like to see the gym eventually become a drop-in location for kids, such as on a Saturday. The only catch is that the center, at 1628 W. Bijou St., lacks the staff to set up and monitor such an operation. He is open to the possibility of volunteers helping out. “The city would give training,” he pointed out.
       A nine-hour open house at the center Aug. 28 attracted about 250 people, Rucker estimated. Many of them did more than just walk through. “We had one of our best first days of registration for classes in a while,” he said.
       Signups are still being taken. Most classes will begin in the second week of September.
       Another sports option at the new center location is a weight room, including a squat rack, leg press, Smith machine and free weights. The room is available for daily drop-ins ($1.50) or $10 for a monthly pass. Minors must be accompanied by an adult.
       For teens during the school year, the center will again offer regular activities, but having the “teen nights” once a month, instead of nearly ever Friday, differs from past years. Two other times a month, in September and October, there will be chaperoned “teen trips” leaving from the center, according to draft copies of the center's fall brochure. Locations will be Laser Quest, Cyber Station (Citadel Mall), Tinseltown and Skate City, with a $3 trip cost plus admission. Rucker said the idea is to get kids out into the community more.
       Other youth or teen activities on the schedule are a family “Halloween Bash” Oct. 30, a talent show Nov. 13 and a class on self-publishing.
       The new West location encompassses about 32,000 square feet in three buildings, compared with 7,500 when the center was inside West Middle School. The center relocated June 1.
       Ongoing use of space includes early childhood and elementary classes, Rock Ledge Ranch's Living History Association, the Billie Spielman Center (indigent assistance) the senior lunch program (daily, available to the elderly for $2 each) and senior games (such as bingo, bridge or crafts).
       Other classes/ programs/services this fall will be similar in scope to what's been offered in the past. Some that will be either continuing or starting in September will be teen mosaics, health and wellness (including yoga and tai chi), monthly book discussions, home repair, driving instruction, dance and theater.
       Also continuing are the excursions for adults and seniors, with trips planned this fall to the Abbey in Canon City, the Butte Theatre melodrama in Cripple Creek, the Hammond's Candy Factory and Georgetown's Victorian Christmas.
       With the added space, several rooms at the new location are vacant at times, Rucker said, allowing rentals of single rooms or larger combinations of rooms for one- time or occasional activities such as small conferences or family gatherings. The going rate is $30 an hour for non-profits, $35 for others, although “we'll work with whatever a group can afford to pay,” he said.

Just in time for the Aug. 28 open house, work crews (see roof area) installed air conditioning for the east wing (right) and central building (left) of the new West Center. The project was covered under the original legal agreement between District 11 and City Parks which ensured that the center (now located on the former Buena Vista School site) would have facilities comparable to those at its old location inside West Middle School (where there was air conditioning). The view looks south, across the former school playground from Platte Avenue.
Westside Pioneer photo

       For more information, call West at 385-7924.

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