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December 18, 2014

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A community lounge for teens is unveiled in style

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Mona Shield Payne

DJ Jason Lema, from Tao Nightclub, spins music in the new teen center, funded by Sands Expo, during the grand-opening party at the Boys and Girls Club at 2850 S. Lindell Road in Las Vegas Monday, August 19, 2013.

Boys & Girls Club Opening

Friends hang out on bean bags in the new teen center during the grand-opening party funded by Sands Expo at the Boys and Girls Club at 2850 S. Lindell Road in Las Vegas Monday, August 19, 2013. Launch slideshow »

For a few hours Monday afternoon, the former cafeteria overlooking the gymnasium at the Lied Memorial Boys and Girls Club in the central valley was turned into the hottest party spot not on the Strip.

While DJ Jason Lema, a regular player at some of the Strip’s biggest nightclubs, spun tunes from top artists like Pitbull and Chelley, dozens of teens crowded the dance floor around his booth, moving and grooving to the beat of the bass, while many more lounged on oversized bean bags scattered around the recently renovated space.

The party helped celebrate the grand opening of the new teen center at the Lied Memorial Boys and Girls Club, located at 2850 S. Lindell Road, near Spring Mountain Road.

Over the past several months, dozens of employees from the Sands Expo company, which runs the Sands Expo Center at the Venetian, have poured personal time and monetary donations to help refurbish the large room on the center’s second floor.

The room had once served as a cafeteria for the hundreds of children who use the facility each day, but when the cafeteria was relocated to a different part of the building, the room became a makeshift storage space that largely went unused.

Ryan Green, sustainable development coordinator for Sands Expo, helped organize the effort to remake the room into a safe place that teens would want to hang out at.

Gone was the old tile floor from the room’s cafeteria days, replaced with new donated carpet. A fresh coat of paint covered the walls while the piles of clutter were removed in favor of plush beanbags, new couches, a flat screen television and several shelves teeming with books.

“We just wanted to help the Boys and Girls Club. They identified that this space was the most desperately in need,” Green said. “We stepped in any way we could to help out and make their vision come true.”

Most days the room will function as a coffee-shop style lounge where teens ages 13 to 18 can study, snack or socialize with friends. But Boys and Girls Club of Southern Nevada CEO Ken Rubeli said the organization also plans to host occasional evening events that could capture some of the same fun nightclub-style energy and enthusiasm found at the teen center Monday afternoon.

The number of teens using the club’s services has grown in recent years, Rubeli said, making it more important than ever that they have a space to call their own, away from the club’s younger members.

The renovated room sits adjacent to the club’s existing teen center, which contains a computer lab, ping-pong tables, foosball and several other games for the 25 to 35 teens the Lied Memorial campus typically sees in a day.

“What we were missing is that area where you can just hang out and be a teen, lounge around and chat with your friends in a relaxed sitting,” Rubeli said. “What we found is if you give teens their own space and their own director, they’re going to thrive.”

The teens seemed right at home Monday afternoon as they sampled some complimentary food from Panda Express and made use of the ample seating in the new center.

Zamaria Jones, 17, said she was looking forward to having a quiet place where she can spend time with friends and get work done. She described the new space as “chic and modern,” a significant upgrade to the “plain and bland” room that was there before.

“It’s a very comfortable place to relax,” she said. “It’s got a nice vibe to it.”

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