The Roadhouse Teen Center in Purcellville, opened in 1996 as a hangout for Loudoun County teenagers, is closing its doors this month and will be looking for a new space farther east.
The Roadhouse property on Main Street was purchased recently by Sherry Wilson, a Leesburg real estate agent who plans to open a Re/Max franchise there. Wilson gave the center the option to rent for the rest of the summer, but organizer Jeff Ball said it has become a struggle to pay rent and utilities -- about $2,000 a month -- so he has decided to close the center and regroup.
Meanwhile, the center's final event, a June 26 battle of teenage bands with a $500 prize, is booked already, and other bands are hoping that Ball can squeeze them into the evening's lineup.
"It's already sold out," Ball said. "It's very popular. It's going to be huge. We'll probably knock a wall out or something to celebrate."
When it's over, Ball said, he will take a short vacation and begin the search for a new home base for Youth Works, the youth group he started in 1995.
"This is a sabbatical that basically I'm forced into," Ball said. "This is going to be good for me to take a breath. In a perfect world, it would be great to open something new up in the fall."
The Roadhouse, formerly home to a string of failed restaurants, has been a popular daytime haven for local teenagers who gather to do homework, play pool or just lounge on the battered couches that line each room. Regulars have decorated the walls with colorful geometric designs and hundreds of photos of Youth Works events, including trips to historic sites, amusement parks and pools, camping trips and community service projects.
As home to one of the few stages in the area that welcome under-21 musicians, the center also has become a nighttime hot spot.
Ken Medeiros, 18, a senior at Loudoun Valley High School, said he and the other members of the band Clashing Cultures played at the teen center's first band night in 1996 and are sad to see it close.
"It means we have to find somewhere else to play," Medeiros said. "It was really just starting to draw a crowd."
Medeiros said that Clashing Cultures hasn't signed up for the final show but that band members are hopeful they will be able to fit into the lineup.
Ball, a former county social services worker, started Youth Works because he thought Loudoun teenagers needed something to do and a place to go after school and in the summer. He initially rented space in Sterling, but he said high costs prompted the move to Purcellville.
Teenagers pay to cover their costs of participating in the expanded summer program, and admission for band nights typically ranged from $3 to $5. But even with lower rent, the nonprofit organization was strapped, Ball said.
Ball said he'll look for a new location in Leesburg or eastern Loudoun that is closer to more teenagers and hope for financial donations.
Elizabeth Whiting, a Leesburg lawyer whose sons -- Jim Finnegan, 15, and Thomas Finnegan, 13 -- have participated in the Youth Works summer programs, said she hopes Ball can find a new place.
"Ideally you want a location where kids can walk to," Whiting said. "I just don't think it ever caught on enough to sustain itself, and the Purcellville location was difficult with that."
Youth Works will continue to host activities at community centers and government buildings during the summer, but the typical packed schedule will be scaled back.
"I want to keep the network of kids together," Ball said. "I really feel like we've made a difference in a lot of kids' lives."