It's been called the "Center Without Walls," but Robert Dim is working to change that.

The Youth Club, a group of 1,200 Reston and Herndon students who meet on outdoor basketball courts, high school gyms, and sites scattered around those two communities, has won awards for its athletic and educational programs despite its lack of walls to call its own.

But Dim, a club counselor who is circulating a 22-page position paper on establishing a new youth center, says it's time to build a center for young people who might otherwise be hanging around shopping malls or peddling drugs.

"If we did have a place, we could be more successful," Dim said. "There are a lot of kids on the fence of delinquency and they could go either way."

But while everyone applauds the Youth Club -- and its activities, which range from martial arts classes to college placement assistance -- not everyone is willing to pay for a new center.

Even a bare-bones building with a gym and pool would easily run into the millions, a price tag that Martha V. Pennino, the Fairfax County board supervisor representing Reston, says the county can't afford.

"Frankly, I don't think 1,200 youths could support or justify a separate center," Pennino said. "There are a lot of recreational facilities {already} available to the youth of Reston."

Youth Club instructor Ted Carpenter, however, says the community could not find a better investment. What it needs, he said, is a center where all kinds of youths can meet to talk, or play soccer, or take part in the Youth Club's "Getting Away Clean" class, a weekly discussion on dealing with peer pressure that is required of those in the popular basketball league.

Dim says that while funding will be difficult to obtain, it's the community support that he's after now. "If the kids and the community get behind this, the funding will take care of itself." One possible option, he said, is that if the proposed center contained day care facilities, the parents' fees might offset some of the costs.

Troy Jenkins, 15, doesn't know much about financing large complexes, but he knows what the Youth Club's summer basketball league had done for him. "When all the kids come out to do bad stuff, that's when basketball starts," Jenkins said. Even though 400 students are enrolled in the summer league, Jenkins said, "more would come if we had a place indoors, a place with air conditioning."

Patty Warstler, who recently went to the Redskins training camp in Carlisle, Pa., with some Youth Club members, also is lobbying hard for a new facility.

"We're not just talking about money; there are a lot of kids who are alone a lot," Warstler said. " . . . A lot of kids come home to an empty house because both parents are working."

The Youth Club recently asked 680 Herndon and Reston intermediate and high school students where they usually "hang out" or take part in hobbies. Shopping malls were the second most popular places, after their home or friends' homes. Parks, schools and recreation centers were nowhere near the top, according to Warstler.

J. Larry Fones, director of Fairfax County's parks and recreational facilities, says there is a reason the county has no center exclusively for youths: "In the day when the kids are at school, they would be empty. This way, if they are for everyone, the senior citizens can use them."

But Warstler says that during the school year, the youth center could be used during the day for many activities including day care.

Youths, she said, "need a place to hang, a second home."