September open date set for YMCA-Highland Lakes teen center in Burnet

YMCA teen center in Burnet set to open in fall 2020

Construction crews are trying to finish a new teen center at the YMCA of the Highland Lakes at Galloway-Hammond in Burnet in time for the 2020-21 school year. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

Officials hope to wrap up construction of a new teen center at the YMCA of the Highland Lakes at Galloway-Hammond in Burnet by mid-September.

Construction began a few weeks ago on the project, which YMCA and city leaders believe is vital to the community.

“There is a need for teens in Burnet to have a safe place to go when not in school or participating in sports activities,” said Cameran Bahr, vice president of operations at YMCA of Greater Williamson County, which runs the Burnet facility.

“As we move on to the opening of the new center, we expect to be able to extend our hours of the center to accommodate the high-risk times that teens need to find an alternate activity.”

The YMCA raised a total of $542,000 with $437,000 coming locally and $105,000 from the YMCA of Greater Williamson County.

Last year, the Burnet City Council voted to make an annual donation of $20,000 over five years equaling $100,000 for teen center operations.

The 3,000-foot center is being added onto the Burnet facility and will be able to accommodate about 100 teens at a time, though building and fire codes and social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic might reduce that number.

At the center, students ages 10-18 can receive tutoring, play video games, and participate in Makerspace activities during which they present an idea and work with others to turn it into reality.

“The intent is to provide a lot of different style of activities to reach all types of users,” Bahr said. “Final programming for the new center is being determined as we speak. A direct computer lab was not a part of the original design; however, we will have full Wi-Fi capabilities to assist students and some free-use computers.”

The YMCA has been raising money for the teen center for a couple of years. Bahr said YMCA personnel saw the need for a teen center soon after taking over Galloway-Hammond in 2013. 

“When teens came to the Y, they were limited to gym and swim,” he said. “When other programs like basketball, pickleball, or indoor soccer were offered to the community in the same place, the kids that needed the Y had nowhere to go. When we began the process, we met with many community volunteers and leaders who actually told us we were not the first to recognize this need, and they were excited to be a part of getting this much-needed addition built.”

Bahr said the facility will not go unused while students are in school. 

“Our intent is to use the space for senior and other community programs while the kids are in school,” he said. “We envision more mixed use than just teens.”

The YMCA is planning a grand opening in the fall as a public thank you to donors and to allow residents to see the finished center, Bahr said. 

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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