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Growing With The Numbers

The Boys & Girls Club of the East Valley’s Compadre branch in Chandler, Ariz., completed a quarter-century journey in August, and began a new chapter in the fall. After occupying the same facility since 1983--the former Seton Catholic High School--the club moved into a new 33,000-square-foot facility with conservational attributes, additional amenities and extra space for increased programming for youth and community events.

In May 2007, Chandler residents approved an $8.5-million bond vote to fund a new interactive, dynamic headquarters for the club. In January, the site near the corner of Arizona Avenue and Chandler Boulevard began the transition from old to new with a groundbreaking ceremony; it wrapped up in August with the demolition of the three old buildings to make room for additional parking spaces and landscaping areas.

Designed by the BCA Companies, and built by the Chasse Building Team, Inc., the new club stands as a shining model for incorporating traditional after-school programs with first-class computer technology. The facility--dedicated in November--is not only the largest, but also the only LEED-certified Boys & Girls Club in Arizona.

Chandler Club History

The Boys & Girls Club of the East Valley serves more than 30,000 children and teens annually, and continues to grow. Serving members in Apache Junction, Chandler, Gilbert, Guadalupe, Mesa, Tempe, Queen Creek and the Gila River Indian Community, programs are offered after school and during the summer to provide youth and teens ages 6 to 18 with fun and educational activities supervised by professional staff. The annual membership fee is $20 a year, and financial assistance is available; no child is ever turned away if unable to pay the fee.

Despite being in buildings more than 50 years old, the club always provided a rewarding roster of community-based, character-building youth-development programs. Currently, the club transports youth from five Chandler schools for the programs that run from 2:30 to 7 p.m. The fee is $60 per month, per child for transportation.

An Array Of New Youth-Enriching Amenities

The new state-of-the-art facility includes:

· Two gymnasiums (with the smaller one being larger than the old site’s original gymnasium)

· Computer labs

· Music recording studio and video editing suite

· Multipurpose rooms equipped for hosting other organizations for meetings and special events

· Office space for healthcare providers to conduct dental check-ups and physicals.

Note: The club also retains its baseball field while awaiting the installation of a new basketball court adjacent to the parking lot.

“We have some aspiring musicians, and we even had one member make a rap CD, so the technical capabilities that will be available in the labs and studio will present great, new creative forums,” says Mindy Elias, branch executive for the Compadre branch. “The computer labs will have different areas of emphasis for education and creating projects, so it won’t just be about playing games and surfing the Web. We look forward to hosting different types of school performances on the stage, and the facility will provide great versatility for renting space for weekend events to community organizations.”

With a grateful nod and salute to the club’s history, the new gym features the logos from the old gymnasium floor hanging on the wall.

Aside from the athletic space in the gyms and a fitness center for teens that is sure to be a popular gathering place, complete with TV monitors on the walls, the centerpiece is likely to be the Intel Computer Clubhouse, with 47 stations (the old club had 17), making it the largest in the world for a Boys & Girls Club. The teens also will have an outdoor patio, while the youth arts program includes an outdoor area for creating and displaying projects.

Other amenities include:

· A stage for theatrical performances and special events

· A full-service kitchen and cafeteria-style seating and serving area

· A health-and-wellness service center staffed by volunteer doctors and dentists

· 80 new computers spread between two computer labs

· A police substation office.

“Greening” The Club

The new building is actually 3½ feet higher, as the site rests on a flood plain, so the Chasse Building Team created an elevated foundation prior to construction.

“We also utilized old and recycled concrete and asphalt material,” says Robert Dilzer, project manager for Chasse. “Overall, we were able to recycle about 75 percent of the construction waste produced at the site throughout the construction.”

The club also features an energy-efficient management system for the heating and air-conditioning, as well as controlled low-flow faucets and waterless urinals in the restrooms.

“There are motion-sensor lighting features with solar tubes throughout the hallway that allow for natural lighting while regulating the need for internal lights,” says Dilzer. “The internal lighting adjusts based on the amount of light provided by the solar tubes, and there are other energy-saving and sustainable features that make the facility eligible for pursuing the silver level of LEED certification.”

Expected Growth

In the old facilities, the club had been serving around 2,100 members; Elias expects that number to grow upwards of 30 percent. She plans to nearly double the staff to accommodate the surge in members, expanded programming and venue-rental options.

“At the old building, we could accommodate an average of 130 youth and 80 teens participating in the various programs on a daily basis,” Elias says. “Now we will have the space, staff and potential to welcome an increased average range of 200 to 250 for youth, and up to 125 teens on a weekday.”

Chasse Mentoring Program

During construction, Dilzer led the Chasse team in conducting a mentoring program for club members, and educated them about the planning and building procedures that went into the new facility. The initiative offered the youth a chance to learn about the different professional disciplines and potential future careers to consider as they develop into tomorrow’s workforce.

“Having the mentoring tours with the club members gave our building team pride in demonstrating the different skills involved on a big construction site,” Dilzer says. “We enjoyed having them as a part of the progress, and they showed great enthusiasm for the behind-the-scenes tours and learning about the infrastructure of their new club.”

The program, called “Future Builders,” also outlined how teens can apply for an apprenticeship, and provided information for local educational institutions offering degrees and certifications. Dilzer and his staff even produced a brochure to complement the tours, which encouraged boys and girls to stay in school and learn about the paths available to them upon graduation.

“There was a real sense of ownership among the boys and girls as they observed the building process and went through the mentoring tours with the Chasse staff and contractors,” says Elias. “It was a career-awareness program. Everyone had a vested interest in the process, and we never had any trouble around the site other than maneuvering around the parking lot.”

In addition to building and teaching, Chasse also had to maintain order on the crowded site and parking lots, as the club was able to remain operational throughout construction until the demolition date was set for August 10.

During demolition, the staff and club members concluded summer camps by relocating to the Chandler Community Center until the new site was completed.

Anticipation Builds

To raise funds for programs at the new club, the Chandler Compadres developed a Web site (www.BuyMyBrick.com) for a commemorative “brick-building” program, affording organizations and individuals the opportunity to contribute by purchasing a customized brick that will leave a lasting impression on the façade of the building’s entrance. Elias anticipated selling 900 bricks to community members.

Elias also saved a brick from the demolished building, noting the bittersweet memories that arose among the staff and past members. “It was a really emotional experience to see all the kids come out to watch the building go down, but the excitement of the new facility is already creating new memories.”

The future looks bright for the club with the many creative and recreation pursuits to be embraced within the new walls of the greenest, most high-tech after-school oasis in the Valley.

Liam O’Mahony is an Information Specialist with the Chandler Community Services Department. He can be reached at liam.o’ mahony@chandleraz.gov. For more information on Chandler Parks, visit www.chandleraz.gov/parks.

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