PORT ANGELES — The sounds of children will soon replace the whine of saws and drills when the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula opens its new Port Angeles clubhouse in February.
The Turner Clubhouse, named after long-time volunteers and benefactors Norma and Gene Turner, will replace the current cramped clubhouse that was repurposed from a pair of public housing units.
Mary Budke, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula, said the new building is nearing completion and soon will be hosting children.
“Pending all our permitting processes, finishing up and final inspections, we’ll be in before the end of February,” she said.
Budke suggested that the swap from the old clubhouse could come sooner than later, but she wasn’t able to confirm an exact date.
“We’re going to be shutting down on a Friday and opening up on a Monday so I would call that just a normal day, only in a different spot” she said. “We are completely moving our clubhouse down so that we are not having a break in service from our existing club to this club.
“It’s important for the kids because, after all, this is why it was built.”
At 15,400 square feet, the new building at Francis Street and Lauridsen Boulevard is twice the size of the existing facilities, which are ultimately slated for demolition by the Peninsula Housing Authority to make way for additional public housing.
The $8.5 million structure was paid for by fundraising campaigns, donations and grants.
The housing authority, which owns the land, is leasing the plot to the organization for $1 per year.
The Turner Clubhouse features a game room, a computer lab, a separate area for teens, an art room, study rooms and a commercial kitchen. Also included is a gymnasium — an addition that was never available to the old Port Angeles clubhouse.
Budke said the new club could potentially accommodate up to 375 to 400 children in a post-COVID-19 scenario, but actual attendance would probably be a lot less.
When it first opens, the club will operate at 25 percent capacity — from 70 to 80 youngsters — until state COVID restrictions are eased.
The old 7,000 square-foot clubhouse was typically accommodating about 135 children a day before COVID-19, but has occasionally served as many as 180 children.
Budke said that was far from ideal.
“Even though it’s safe from a fire marshal’s standpoint, that is not an optimum club experience when you have so many children in program areas” she said. “We also want them to have the ultimate, world-class experience when they’re within our doors.”
With quarters that cramped and demand that high, the old club had to cut off memberships in 2016 and create a waiting list for new children.
“It was heartbreaking to tell families that desperately need us, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t have any room’,” Budke said.
With coronavirus restrictions, the current club’s capacity has been down to mere dozens.
Boys & Girls Club board member Norma Turner, for whom the new clubhouse has been named, said the goal of the new building was to accommodate those children waiting to attend.
“When this building was designed, it was to remove the 200 kids from the wait list so we can serve 250 to 300 here,” she said.
Budke said the club’s new gymnasium with adjoining kitchen was the showcase of the facility.
“That’s our shock-and-awe place,” she said.
Janet Gray, the club’s resource development director, pointed out the need for an indoor play area.
“The gym was really important to the Port Angeles members,” she said. “They currently don’t have a gym. They have an outdoor play area that they use everyday, every season.
“This will provide an indoor, more comfortable space for them. There was no space in the Port Angeles club where they could gather as a whole clubhouse and this will allow kids the ability to do that as well.”
Gray said the gymnasium was designed for more than just children. The facility also would be available for community use outside of club hours.
“We’re able to loan this gym to community groups and rent it for special events,” she said.
Budke stressed the practicality of the gymnasium’s design that goes well beyond being a children’s play area.
“This is set up so it is a community resource,” Budke said. “It will be in use, I imagine, nearly every weekend when we’re not using it and probably in the evenings when we’re not in service past 6 p.m.
“There’s a multitude of things that you can use a big space for that’s attached to a kitchen with good parking and access to major arterial roads.”
Turner, who has spent countless hours helping to ready the new clubhouse for occupancy, said she was pleased with how the final design turned out.
“I think the building is spectacular, it’s impressive, it’s practical and it’s so exciting,” Turner said. “I’ll love it more when it has kids in it. I’m just delighted.”
Photojournalist Keith Thorpe can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 59050, or at [email protected]