Thursday, November 6, 2008

Matt Garcia Youth Center officially open

Matt Garcia Youth Center officially open
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | November 05, 2008

Youth and community members gather around the doorway of the new Matt Garcia Youth Center in anticipation for the ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Mike Greener

FAIRFIELD - Within moments of the doors opening, the thudding sound of bouncing basketballs filled the new Matt Garcia Youth Center.

A crowd of hundreds spent Wednesday afternoon under cloudy skies for the grand opening of the center, which will have its first normal day of operation on Friday.

'It's a bittersweet day for us,' said Teresa Courtemanche, mother of Garcia, a Fairfield City Councilman who was slain in September. 'Matt's not here in body but I know he's here in spirit.'

The afternoon program consisted of several speakers and was followed by an open house at the center, program sign-ups, boxing demonstrations and the first chance for kids to shoot hoops on the basketball court.

The center is located at 250 Travis Blvd., next to Grocery Outlet, near the intersection with North Texas Street. Named the Matt Garcia Youth Center, it is operated by the non-profit Police Activities League.

The building itself is dominated by the large basketball court, where children played with members of the Solano Community College basketball team on Wednesday. The center also has four homework rooms with computers, an arts and crafts room, and an entry area with a large boxing ring.

Membership is available to students in grades 7-12. Membership for the year costs $10 per student, and a valid school identification card is required. It will be open from 2:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and 2:30 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Several speakers discussed the three year-plus process that led to the facility's construction.

A teen center had been proposed early in the decade by former Councilman John English but was never built. After the 2005 election, Councilmen John Mraz and Frank Kardos made the issue a top priority, one shared by Garcia and Councilman Chuck Timm after their 2007 election.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.