FARMINGTON — For nearly 30 years, Shiprock has awaited a new youth center. It is finally on its way.

The Shiprock Youth Center project is going to break ground at about 1 p.m. Wednesday behind the Shiprock Post Office.

The Office of Youth Development and the Shiprock Planning Committee worked together to get the project to this point, but it's up to the community to make sure the project does not get stalled.

Preparing the center will cost about $6.6 million, funded by a construction grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The funding comes from money recaptured from other incomplete projects, according to Wetona Becenti, a program supervisor for the Office of Youth Development in Shiprock.

"The design itself has changed about three times because the funding it required and services it offered kept changing," Becenti said.

The center will be about 22,000 square-feet, more than twice the size of current facilities. The new center will feature an art room, a game room, a learning room, a technology center, a media center, and a gymnasium.

"It's going to be a lot bigger," said Morgan Nez, 10, one of the children who uses the current center.

Nez, who loves basketball, is especially looking forward to the gymnasium, where he can pretend that he is Kevin Durant, his favorite National Basketball Association player.

The current center, the former Shiprock Civic Center, is about 10,000 square-feet.


The building itself is about 50 years old and is split between the youth center and the Shiprock Public Library.

The current location is across from the Northern Navajo Medical Center, not as central to the local schools as the staff and parents would like. The new center will be closer to the center of Shiprock.

"I hope that it will attract a lot of youth from around Shiprock," Becenti said.

Children at the current center on Friday gathered around a poster that showed what their new building will look like.

Pointing at the different features, the children squealed with excitement.

"A swimming pool!" shouted Samara Nez, 7, mistaking the gymnasium for a pool in the drawing.

While the plans do not include a swimming pool, the facility should provide much more opportunity for children and teenagers in the area. While most of the children that visit the youth center currently are in elementary school, the center is expected to offer more services to teenagers. The center is to have services that would help teenagers learn how to fill out job applications, how to conduct themselves in job or college interviews, and how to prepare for either a workplace or college environment.

The new center is expected to be finished and open about a year from now, Becenti said.

Jenny Kane may be reached at; 505-564-4636. Follow her on Twitter