TULALIP — Rap music blared as colorful lights shined on groups of teens playing car racing video games on big-screen TVs.
Some kids signed a graffiti wall while others danced or visited with friends.
The multimedia center at the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club opened Wednesday after years of planning. Nearly everything inside is electronic, including displays of a fireplace and a fish tank. It’s a place where young people can go to hang out and finish school work.
Marlin Fryberg Jr., a member of the Tulalip Tribes Board of Directors, wishes he’d had a place like this while growing up on the reservation.
He remembers playing in the street with other kids in his neighborhood nearly 40 years ago, because there was nothing else to do.
“We would see who was fastest running from speed bump to speed bump,” he said. “We need a place for our kids to go.”
More than 1,800 kids are members of the Tulalip club. Up to 400 young people can visit there in one day.
The Tulalip Indian Reservation was the first reservation in the state to have a Boys & Girls Club. It opened in 1997, and has served as a model for others. Now there are clubs on three other reservations in the state, said Bill Tsoukalas, executive director of Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County.
He hopes the new center draws young people.
“Bells and whistles and what you are going to see here is a hook, it’s a magnet,” he said. “Our end goal is we want to keep the kids safe, we want to keep them healthy, we want them to graduate from school, we want them to go to college and come back to be our future leaders.”
Middle and high schoolers are welcome to use the space. Inside are rows of computers, table games, big couches and a snack counter.
Tulalip leaders started to plan the new teen center a few years ago, and gathered ideas from the Monroe Boys & Girls Club.
Construction on the new 4,000-square-foot building took about six months. It was built onto the existing club.
Costs added up to more than $2 million, covered by grants and money collected during fundraisers.
Teens who use the space made a big wish list of what they’d like to see inside, said Mark Hatch, executive director of the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club.
He’s most looking forward to hearing what the kids play on the music system.
Hatch hopes to share the plans from Tulalip with other tribes, to provide more children with this kind of space.
“We’ll probably have other tribes come down here from all these different areas and just go, ‘Wow, why can’t we do this?’” he said. “Well they can.”