LYNNWOOOD — The music thudded through the dark room as the strobe light flashed. The teenage DJ cranked up the fog machine a few notches, sending wisps of white onto a dance floor filled with three dozen teenagers.
Down the hall, five teens were waiting for their turn to swing on the thick rope hanging over the deep end of the pool, to soar for a moment before dropping into the cool water.
And the hot tub? Forget it. Too packed to fit even one more.
The secret is out: Lynnwood has something to do on a Saturday night.
Every Saturday, more than 175 south Snohomish County teenagers pack the Lynnwood Recreation Center for Night Waves, two hours where they can swim, dance, work out and hang out.
The city-sponsored program began two years ago to give teens a safe place to go on Saturdays.
The event has grown from attracting just 64 teens every Saturday in 2001 to regularly drawing up to 200 – especially on the one Saturday a month with free pizza.
“I always tell people they should come. It’s way better than sitting at home,” said Kimberly Jones, 16, a Lynnwood High School sophomore who attends Night Waves every Saturday. “It gives kids something to do besides looking for trouble.”
If she wasn’t spending Saturday nights there, Jones said she’d probably be at home, sending instant messages to her friends from her computer.
“There’s nothing to do in Lynnwood. This is pretty much it,” she said.
The reason it works is simple, organizers said. The city asks teens what they want to do and involves them in planning the events, such as the teen Battle of the Bands in March that drew more than 300 people.
“The real goal is we want to keep kids safe and provide them opportunities that are constructive. I’ve always tried to make my programs cooler than the parties,” said Lynnwood Recreation Supervisor Joel Faber.
Faber and teen recreation assistant Lynn Lundquist supervise Night Waves. In addition, lifeguards and other city staff are on duty. Lynnwood police also usually drop by, but Faber said there have been few problems.
“The teens really police this program closely themselves. They don’t want kids to bring in beer or get in fights or vandalize the property because they want to protect this program,” he said.
The program is part of Lynnwood’s push to offer more for teenagers. The city budgeted $23,500 for teen programs for 2003-04.
In addition to Night Waves, the city sponsors Teens with a Cause, a teen volunteer group that meets weekly, and regularly offers teen recreation programs, such as an upcoming kayaking camp.
“When you have successful programs like this, teens are happier and healthier,” said Craig Larsen, Lynnwood’s parks, recreation and cultural arts director. “This leads to safer communities.”
Night Waves is so popular that the city’s Senior Advisory Committee gave the parks and recreation department extra money to pick a boy and girl teen of the month, who get to attend Night Waves free for that month.
They also get in first, along with five of their friends, which means no waiting in the long line outside the recreation center on Saturdays.
Bart Griffin, 16, a Meadowdale High School junior, comes almost every Saturday and DJs the once-a-month dances. He picked up some of his moves from a pro who came in on a previous Saturday to teach teens how to be a disc jockey.
“I come because this is the coolest thing to do on a Saturday night,” Griffin said. “It’s nice to be here with a bunch of friends.” Info: about Night Waves or other teen events, call 425-771-4030.
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