Residents and officials expressed support at the Manassas City Council meeting Monday night for a proposed Boys & Girls Club, saying such a facility could help deter juvenile crime in the growing city.
The informational public hearing was the next step in what has become a decade-long effort by the Kiwanis Club and the Prince William Boys & Girls Club to bring a third facility to the area. Two clubs already are operating in the eastern end of Prince William County. The council will consider the site plans, which must be approved before construction can begin, at its next meeting.
Although juvenile crime in Manassas has declined in this decade, residents expressed concern that such problems inevitably accompany growth.
"By approving this, you're taking a look into the future," Charles Ashton, who serves on the Juvenile Court Advisory Council, told City Council members. "You're saying you're taking a step against crime. I've seen too many juveniles led astray."
The proposed Manassas Boys & Girls Club was initiated by the local Kiwanis Club, which already has pledged more than $100,000 toward the estimated $2 million project. Earlier this year, about 1,000 residents signed a petition urging council members to approve the site and plans for the club, which would sit in a grassy flat stretch of Dean Park, near two softball diamonds and a worn bicycle path along Winters Brook.
"This stemmed from a recognized need for a place where teens could go to be with other teens," said Augie Tortora, who spoke on behalf of the Kiwanis Foundation of Manassas. "We've envisioned this for a number of years. We believe it's time to invest in our youth, and we see this as a unique opportunity to do something for the youth in Manassas."
Tortora said that fund-raising for the center should begin in February and that groundbreaking would occur in late spring, provided the council approves site plans.
The proposed 35,000-square-foot center, which would target children 10 to 12 years old, would be modeled after the Hylton Boys & Girls Club in Dale City, said Vincent Borello, executive director of Prince William Boys & Girls Clubs. The Hylton club's game room features such games as Foosball and air hockey. Its two gymnasiums are used for basketball, volleyball and wrestling. The club's second floor houses a library, a $30,000 computer cluster and an exercise room.
The Manassas club, which is expected to have a membership base of nearly 3,000, would be within walking distance of Jennie Dean Elementary School and the Wellington housing community. The center also might include an outdoor pavilion for theatrical and musical performances and a water park, or "an oversized water sprinkler so the kids can get wet," Tortora said.
Although the council has yet to officially approve it, the club was hailed by Mayor Marvin L. Gillum (R) as "necessary" for the city.
"The local government officials are very excited about the possibility of a Boys & Girls Club here," he said. "We certainly think we need it."