Coon Rapids teen center celebrates 10th anniversary

The Element Teen Center in Coon Rapids celebrated its 10th anniversary July 9.

Teens compete in a game of bingo at the 10th anniversary celebration. Photo by Bethany Kemming

Teens compete in a game of bingo at the 10th anniversary celebration. Photo by Bethany Kemming

The Element is located at the former Riverwind Community Center and provides a drug and alcohol free environment for middle and high school students year-round.

Teens and community members alike celebrated the anniversary with games, bouncy houses, concessions, Jimmy Johns sandwiches, coffee from Caribou Coffee and music.

Teen Center Supervisor Kelli Neid has worked at The Element for six years. She said the center has provided a good environment for many teens, especially those with a bad home life.

“They can come here and get away from home and meet friends. It’s really a home away from home for some,” Neid said.

The Element is free for all teens in grades six through 12. At the center, teens can choose from Wii games, board games, outdoor sporting equipment, pool tables and a pingpong table.

The center hosts events throughout the year, including dances, water days, movie nights and an annual Night to Unite celebration.

The Element also offers a skate park, one of the only around since the skate park near the Cook Memorial Ice Arena closed. The skate park is one of the reasons Thomas Frosch frequents The Element.

“You can’t really take your bike and go on a skate park anywhere else,” he said.

Chase Otis said he also visits The Element regularly.

“It’s safe and there’s a lot of fun stuff, I think a lot of kids should come here,” Otis said.

Around 25 to 35 teens visit The Element each day. Neid said many teens have requested that the center increase its hours, but the center does not currently have enough staff.

The Element opened July 9, 2002 after the Coon Rapids City Council had approved a proposal from a teen council stating that Coon Rapids needed a place that teens could call their own.

The Element is part of a joint powers agreement between the city of Coon Rapids, Anoka County and the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

The council and Coon Rapids Youth First both dedicate funding toward the teen center each year, according to Coon Rapids Ward 1 City Councilmember Denise Klint. The Element has around 36 other sponsors.

Klint said she was instrumental in getting the teen center started after the Riverwind Community Center closed. Klint had grown up and raised her kids in the Coon Rapids area and realized teens had very few places to spend their time.

“It was a segment of the community that had nowhere to go,” she said.

According to Klint, The Element has a convenient location, only a few blocks from the high school and middle school.

It is currently the only teen center in the county.

During the summer, the teen center is open from Monday through Thursday, 3 to 6 p.m. The teen center is open three days a week for three hours in the afternoon during the school year, though Neid said the schedule depends on staff availability.

Bethany Kemming is at bethany.kemming@ecm-inc.com

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