NORTH ADAMS -- Area teens have a new space to hang out in at the Northern Berkshire Y.
The new Teen Center was unveiled Monday, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by state Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, Mayor Richard J. Alcombright and members of the Y's Board of Directors.
Executive Director Justin Ihne said a $25,000 grant from the Amelia Peabody Foundation paid for the renovations to the space -- a former computer lab and adjacent baby-sitting area -- along with new computers, a double basketball shoot-out game, two Wii consoles and a foosball table.
"We've had this dream to create this ever since I got here a couple of [months] ago," Ihne said. "We've wanted to create a youth zone.Certainly we have kids who like to play basketball, go swimming and workout, but sometimes they just need a kind of ‘hang out' space. It's supervised, and we will make sure people are living up to the values of the Y while they're here."
Board of Directors Chairman Timothy Lescarbeau said providing a safe environment for local youth is a priority of the organization.
"We have a lot of kids in the area that this is the only place they have to go to," he said. "It occupies their time. It's a safe environment and that's what we want for our kids. When I say ‘our kids,' I really mean it. We're all a big family here. They come in from the neighborhoods and become family.
Maya Kenner, 13, who was playing a game of "Just Dance" on one of the Wii consoles, said she was amazed by the new center.
"I come here on Mondays for dance, and then on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I just come to hang out," she said. "All we had before was a computer room, which had old computers. Some of them were broken. This is way better."
Joe Caron, 15, described the space as "awesome," saying it was a great improvement.
"I usually come here every day," he said. "I come to hang out with my friends and play basketball. I've been coming here for a couple years. I think this is great."
Alcombright, who got in on the action by challenging Downing to a quick game of basketball shootout, said the new space is a testament to the continued dedication of the Y, its staff and board of directors to the city and to Northern Berkshire.
"I think we all know the importance and relevance of the YMCA to our greater community but also what it means for our youth -- decade after decade of service to our youth with the programming that happens here," he said. "Thank you for your passion and dedication."