Just when they thought the gift-giving season was over, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders in Kenosha will have another present coming to them.
Their very own space to play, study, chill and create will be unwrapped at an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Monday at the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha, 1330 52nd St.
The new Tween Center, an interactive space dedicated for youth in grades 4-6, features a lounge library and technology space, game zone and a study hall/art studio.
Club CEO Jake McGhee said the growing membership and a need to provide pre-teens with their own unique quarters inspired the new center that had once been rented out to the community for meetings, activities and celebrations.
The space, however, was seldom used for that purpose and then was repurposed as memberships exploded over last two years, he said.
From the 2015-16 school year to the 2017-18 school year, the average daily attendance in the Troha Youth Center increased from 67 to 184 members per day, according to the club’s data.
“We just started to see so many kids coming through the doors. A couple of years ago we had 50 or 60 youth coming to the club,” he said.
“We grew so fast in two years — from 50 kids to sometimes 180 — and we just didn’t have space. A huge reason why we grew in attendance numbers was because Kenosha County helped fund our busing initiative.”
McGhee said having the new center will allow the club to improve the quality of its programs.
“We have the teen center upstairs, and we feel that this will be a good transition (for tweens),” he said. “I’m excited about it. It’s always kind of fun to go from something that’s just an idea to see it become a reality.”
The new Tween Center can accommodate about 60 kids, McGhee said. And the space is exclusively for tweens.
“So, the bigger kids technically aren’t allowed in here and the little kids aren’t either,” he said. “This will be their space.”
The walls of the new center, which were once brightly colored, now have neutral hues, while the matte-finish primary colors af the fixtures and furnishings bring the space to life.
The library/tech space features about two dozen laptops stored in a special high-tech charging station provided by Spectrum, along with tablets. International Mold and Production LLC has also donated a 3-D printer.
The game area contains two TVs for gaming along with a pool table, fooseball and ping pong, among other games.
There also will be a quiet area for homework and creating art; one wall features a series of clips so artwork can be displayed or allowed to dry.
McGhee said he’s confident the space will be ready for use on Monday, which coincides with Kenosha Unified’s first day back from winter break.
The space and furnishings were designed by IKEA and sponsored by Haribo, the German gummy candy maker which broke ground in Pleasant Prairie this summer. IKEA also furnished and designed the club’s teen center.
The furnishing are IKEA’s most durable, McGhee said, some of which can be found in the Oak Creek store’s entry area and cafeteria.
Wes Saber, chief financial officer of Haribo of America, said the company believes “every child deserves an education and a safe space to learn and have fun.”
“We’re so proud to help build the Tween Center and support the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha in their mission to inspire young people to reach their full potential,” Saber said in a statement.