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New Medford center will serve youth

A new Medford Youth Activity Center for intermediate and middle school students will debut Saturday with new game tables, shiny flat-screen televisions and computers during an open house and ribbon cutting at the Santo Community Center on North Columbus Avenue.

Medford Parks and Recreation Department will show off its newly consolidated and remodeled space at the event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., including new offices, lobby and gymnasium and a renovated indoor playground with two new jump houses. Admission is free.

The new $375,000 youth center, converted out of a garage through the designs of architect Ken Ogden, replaces the one at Jackson Cottage, also known as "The Shack," at the corner of North Columbus and West McAndrews, said Brian Sjothun, Parks and Recreation director.

Easter Seals will lease Jackson Cottage from the city.

Attendees at the Saturday event may try out the center's new air hockey, bubble hockey, foosball and pool tables, video games, satellite TV and leather sofas.

Two Wii game systems, provided by an anonymous donor, will be given away during a free drawing for fourth through eighth grades.

Contestants must register between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and be present at the drawing at 2 p.m. to win.

In addition to new finishes, furniture and equipment, the youth center has a fish-bowl-like office for the recreation supervisor who will be able to monitor who enters and exits the center while keeping an eye on adolescents inside the game room.

Both the 2,400-square-foot youth center and the indoor playground are available for rent for birthday parties.

A ribbon cutting begins at 10 a.m. in the Santo Center lobby to mark the completion of the nearly $2.3 million in new construction and renovation at the site, including the new youth center.

More than $600,000 of that, including all of the funds for the youth center, came from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grants. The remainder of the funds came largely through revenue bonds.

Construction began in September 2007 and finished Dec. 1.

Parks and Recreation serves about 175,000 people in the greater Medford area, Sjothun said.

A variety of enrichment classes, children's summer camps and other activities are available at www.ci.medford.or.us.

The parks department previously was divided between the Santo Center's limited office space and space in City Hall at 411 W. Eighth St. Administrative offices moved to Santo in September after initial renovations were completed.

A courtyard was turned into the department's lobby, offices were built over an old boiler room and a copy room was carved out of a storage space.

Cake and refreshments will be available to the first 100 people who turn out for the open house. Crafts for toddlers are available from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

City employees have challenged the project contractor, Ashland-based Adroit Construction Co. Inc., to a basketball game at 10:45 a.m. in the new gymnasium.

Mayor Gary Wheeler will toss the jump ball for the contest.

The gymnasium features a synthetic composite floor, one large basketball court, two smaller courts and three volleyball courts.

A community basketball tournament will be held at 12:30 p.m. and a volleyball tournament at 4 p.m.

The youth center is open to students in fourth through eighth grades from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday during the school year.

For details, call 774-2400.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.

Paul Cruz works on installing data cabling in the Youth Activities Center which will open Saturday at the Santo Community Center in Medford. Jim Craven 1/6/2009 - Jim Craven