TURLOCK -- It's an often-heard teenage refrain: "There's nothing to do in Turlock!"
The Community Service Commission -- an unglamorous sidearm of the City Council -- hopes to answer that complaint with a city-run teen center. The plan is in the infant stage, but it could include anything from basketball courts and boxing rings to pool tables and table tennis.
With two high-profile buildings in development -- the Carnegie Arts Center and a $35 million public safety center -- not to mention an empty city-owned warehouse at 400 B St., the timing could be right. The two-building police campus on Palm Avenue could be vacant in three years.
"Of all the years I've been on this commission (discussion of a teen center) has sparked the most community interest," Chairman Brent Bohlender said. "If we want the old police building, we need to get the City Council on board as soon as possible."
Another option is the War Memorial Auditorium, a large city-owned building on Canal Drive catty-corner to the police station. Not up to American with Disabilities Act requirements, the War Memorial would need excessive renovation, costing more than $1 million, before teenagers could move in, said Municipal Services Director Dan Madden. Whether that much cash could be raised before the Police Department moves into its new building is unknown.
"Look at what happened with the arts center," said Commissioner Richard Salinas. "How much was that? This is just a small piece of that."
The commission will try to get a better estimate of how much it would take to renovate the War Memorial before its May meeting. Visits to other teen centers also are in the works, such as a trip to Modesto's Maddux Youth Center at César E. Chávez Park.
The group is eyeing other cities' ideas, too, such as Campbell, Woodland, Stockton and Santa Clarita, which built community centers that host classes, plays and senior programs in addition to being a teen hangout.
Salinas, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Endsley & Associates, plans to look into other buildings and open lots for new construction.
If a concrete plan materializes, a sales tax initiative could be sponsored to pay for a Turlock youth center.
"Why would you not buy into the future of your children?" asked Commissioner Dave Shabaz. "If the entire community decides they don't want a teen center, I'd be surprised."
He stressed that a building plan would be needed to sell the idea.
"You begin with the end in mind," Recreation Division Manager Judy Loretelli told the group. "You have to start with something."
Bee staff writer Michael R. Shea can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2391.