Schenectady’s new Boys & Girls Club to soon open its doors

New facility offers Schenectady youth a home to study hard and play hard
Shane Bargy, executive director, Boys & Girls Club of Schenectady, in the new gymnasium.
Shane Bargy, executive director, Boys & Girls Club of Schenectady, in the new gymnasium.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

The new Boys & Girls Club center slotted between Mont Pleasant Middle School and Pleasant Valley Elementary Schools shined and glimmered with finishing touches during a recent tour.

But it is also built to last and endure the daily pounding from teens and young kids coming its way.

Terrazzo floors. Quartz and Corian counters. TVs at the entrance to each room, listing activities for the day. A $300,000 performance theater, designed in consultation with Proctors. A large gym full of natural light streaming through massive windows.

The new $13 million center, set to open as soon as next month, stands as a symbol of the community’s support for its youth, said Shane Bargy, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Schenectady County, calling it “one of the most exciting projects” for youth in the city’s history.

Photos: Marc Schultz/Gazette Photographer

“It reeks of quality, which is what we want our kids to feel,” Bargy said as he showed off the building Tuesday. “What we really want is for the kids to realize how much the community cares for them. This building is a statement about how much the community cares.”

Bargy even noted the durability of the front doors, which he said were “mall quality,” a step above school quality and built to accommodate unrelenting use.

“Our doors go open-shut, open-shut constantly,” Bargy said.

With equipment and furniture still coming into the building, Bargy said he hopes to open to the city’s youth sometime in December, after officials get together for a formal opening ceremony.

Bargy, who grew up about five blocks from the new center and graduated from Mont Pleasant High School, said the building was designed with two priorities in mind: safety and durability.

Even the bathrooms were designed and built to be “virtually indestructible.” Urinal and stall dividers are made from a composite material that minimizes unwanted writing and carving and the sinks and floors are strong too.

The building is equipped with both exterior and interior surveillance cameras, providing administrators video access in the case of an incident. The buildings includes new administrative offices for the countywide boys and girls club.

The building was also designed with flexibility on the mind: many rooms can be divided and subdivided for different uses and easily-movable furniture will allow kids to set themselves apart in large spaces for games, discussions and other activities.

“We made the building as flexible as possible for all kinds of programming,” Bargy said.

The new center, which was built in the city’s Quackenbush Park, is split by its two levels: the 12 and under kids on the first floor and teens on the second floor. A massive two-story gymnasium and a state-of-the-art performance theater are shared spaces.

Both floors have their own large game rooms, multi-use study and program rooms, computer labs and scores of storage cubbies for the kids.

The second-floor teen space, whose design was guided by surveying over 100 teens a few years ago, includes a large, open game room. The game room has a pool table and will soon be receiving Foosball and ping-pong tables as well. At the center of the teen game room, a structural pillar was wrapped in sheet wall and now holds three TVs, one one each side of the pillar and outfitted with its own video game console. A 65-inch TV sits on the wall in a nook in one corner of the room and slightly smaller TV, which will be home to an X-Box Connect soon. The game room, which has large windows letting in natural light, also looks over the first-floor gymnasium.

Along the perimeter of the teen game room is space for a computer lab – the computers haven’t reached the center yet but are on their way – and a handful of study and multi-use room. Teen coordinator Kiara Shelley has an office at the back of the game room, and Northern Rivers Family Services has an office where its counselors can meet with teens.

Down a short hallway from the game room lies the teen cafe and performance space. The room, which has cushioned flooring, can host dances, open mic nights and other activities. A small bar space will let kids operate a small cafe, selling and giving away drinks and snacks. Bargy said he will wait to get input from the kids on what kind of machines they want for the cafe.

“I don’t care if they pick out a Snow Cone machine,” he said.

Beside the gym, kitchen and cafeteria, and performance theater, the first floor is largely dedicated to the younger kids. Like the teens, the younger kids have their own game room and various study rooms. A computer lab will soon be outfitted with over a dozen desktops just for the youngsters.

But the theater, named for donors Neil and Jane Golub, and the gym are the centerpiece of the new facility. The gym, with soaring ceilings and large windows, contains a full-sized basketball court that can be divided into two courts if needed. The gym space as a whole can be divided to allow four different age groups to play at the same time, Bargy said. Bleachers with 250 seats fold out from the wall. Next to the gym is a professional kitchen and another multi-use space that can adapt to the organization’s needs.

The theater, which Bargy said was designed in coordination with Proctors and at a smaller scale mirrors some of Proctors’ physical and technical layout, comes with around $300,000 in sound, lighting and curtains.

“This is a professional theater,” Bargy said.

The Boys & Girls Club has created a new part-time position for a theater director, and Bargy said he hopes to establish a pipeline for kids to learn all parts of theater at the center, in the local high schools and at Proctors.

During schools hours, the new facility will be open for seniors to use and Bargy said he envisioned basketball leagues and other opportunities for the public to use the space.

The $13 million project was supported by a fundraising campaign chaired by Mark and Terri Little. Over $8 million was raised in private donations from over 100 individuals, families and businesses, Bargy said. The Little Family Foundation and the Wright Family Foundation both donated $2 million to launch the fundraising campaign.

Bargy said the fundraising effort, though, was pushed over their target with help from the state: the state Homes and Community Renewal program kicked in a $3 million award along with $2.4 million in New Market tax credits utilized by Empire State Development and The Community Builders, Inc., key partners in the project. Chase and M&T Bank both provided financing support.

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