Longer hours for rec centers in Winston-Salem

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Some Winston-Salem community members want the city to provide more resources to keep teens off the streets.

“I don’t understand why these centers are closed early on Friday and closed all day Saturday and Sunday, when those are the times the kids really need someone to be, somewhere to go," David Villada said.

Right now, city recreation centers close at 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and at 6 p.m. on Friday, before they open up again Monday morning.

Villada has seen first-hand the benefit city rec centers and community programs can have on kids and teens.

“Who just needed some type of guidance, needed a safe haven instead of being in the streets," he said.

Villada founded "Beating Up Bad Habits" four years ago. The program teaches about 55 boys and girls how to box and let loose some pent up energy.

“We were teaching the kids the important of community involvement, giving back," he said. "We refer kids to professional agencies, where they can get anger management, substance abuse, gang prevention.”

"Beating Up Bad Habits" was housed at a local boxing gym, but the gym changed owners, and now the program is on hold while it looks for a new home. Villada hopes the program can move in to a Winston-Salem rec center, like the one on Sprague Street.

The city's recreation and parks department is open to hosting "Beating Up Bad Habits" and other new programs.

“The moment you can and enter our park property that you're having the most fun, the most unique experience, and that it’s the safest experience you can have as well," Recreation and Parks Director William Royston said.

Villada and other community members met with city leaders to see how they could work together.

“We have to get really creative in making sure we’re able to keep the centers open during that time, move staff around, use our existing resources so that we’re not adding any additional costs,” Royston said.

Villada is now working on a proposal for new programming and weekend hours. He'll approach the city council with it once it's complete.

The recreation and parks department is also working on a plan of its own. The spring, city staff will go door to door asking the community what new programming they want to see in their rec centers.