New Bellefonte Youth Center opens doors

Koltin Caldwell, 12, left, and Kobi Long, 8, play Transformers with Seppi Grugan at the new Bellefonte Youth Center on Wednesday.
Koltin Caldwell, 12, left, and Kobi Long, 8, play Transformers with Seppi Grugan at the new Bellefonte Youth Center on Wednesday. CDT photo

The sound of footsteps reverberated through the new Bellefonte Youth Center on Wednesday afternoon.

Dominic Long looked up from the race car tracks he’d been playing with to see about 20 Bellefonte Middle School teenagers walk in.

“We gotta clean this up,” Long, 9, said to his younger brother Oliver, 6. “You get the Bumble Bee track. I’ll get the Green Lantern track.”

The Long brothers hurriedly packed the tracks into their boxes and went to play with some of the middle-school teens, a familiar scene each day, youth center program manager Penny Horner said.

The Bellefonte Youth Center opened at 114 N. Spring St. this week after it moved out of the Temple Court building on Allegheny Street in June. The center was forced to move because of renovations to the Courthouse Annex building next door.

The youth center served 253 5- to 18-year-olds last year.

“You wouldn’t have known that we ever closed the old place, because we’re back to our routine,” Horner said.

A parade featuring Bellefonte Area High School band members and Mayor Tom Wilson moved from the center’s old location to its new home Monday. Children peeked into the center’s window as soon as the parade was over.

“No kids saw it yet, so they were all really anxious to get in,” Horner said.

Reviews of the new youth center were positive among the children. Some said the new building was bigger, but Centre County Youth Service Bureau CEO Andrea Boyles said it’s about the same size as its previous location.

Children noticed there were new toys to play with.

“The younger girls got a lot of new Barbies and some other toys, and I think the boys got some new toys, too,” said Tiara Bitner, 11. “The kitchen is a lot bigger and nicer, too.”

Another perk is that the new youth center has two bathrooms — one for the boys and one for the girls.

“It’s better, because you don’t have to wait for the bathroom or anything,” said Alex Davis, 11.

The setup of the new building is also different, which Boyles hopes will attract more teenagers.

“We didn’t plan it this way, but we noticed that we set it up where the younger kids have their area to play in and the teenagers can go into their own area near the couch and TV if they want to,” Boyles said. “There seems to be more space between them, so we hope more teenagers will come in to take advantage of that if they don’t necessarily want to play with the younger kids.”