PALMDALE — The Boys & Girls Club of the Antelope Valley is looking for a new home in Palmdale.
For nearly 30 years the nonprofit organization has used the Hammack Activity Center on Avenue Q-6.
“This was the first Boys and Girls Club in the Antelope Valley,” said Jay Duke, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of the Antelope Valley.
The decades-old building has multiple issues that prompted City officials to close it.
“The City’s at a point with liability concerns that we think it’s best that we don’t want to put the youth in that building right now,” Assistant City Manager J.J. Murphy said.
Murphy added the City is working with the Boys & Girls Club to find alternatives, including some City sites as a temporary solution.
“We’re trying to be a good partner,” Murphy said.
The Boys & Girls Club stopped using the Hammack Center about a month ago. A handwritten sign set on an easel in the lobby says the club will be closed until further notice. Parents were directed to visit the club’s Facebook page and website for updates.
However, Duke announced the center’s official closing in a letter to Palmdale and the surrounding Antelope Valley community Friday night.
“It is with sadness that we announce the official closing of the Hammack Activity Center in Palmdale,” Duke wrote. “For 28 years the Hammack Activity Center has been called home to over 11,000 kids who have used the center as a safe place with caring mentors and life-enhancing programs focused on academics, health and leadership,” Duke wrote.
The Boys & Girls Club started in a back room of the 25,000 square-foot building in 1991. The City ran Parks and Recreation out of the former grocery store at the time. The Boys & Girls Club had so many more youth use its programs that the City agreed to let them use the whole thing. There are basketball and volleyball courts, a computer lab, and teen center.
“When you talk about this size of a building and what it can do, there’s not much that’s comparable,” Stacey Cantwell, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Antelope said.
The center served about 100 children per day during the winter when school was out of session, and 250 children per day in the summer. The center also served as the Boys & Girls Club hub for food distribution. When it was open, the Boys & Girls Club served breakfast and weekend meals, about 7,200 a year, plus daily hot meals.
Duke and Cantwell went to Sacramento this week for training. They came back with an unexpected, bittersweet surprise: an award recognizing the Boys & Girls Club of the Antelope Valley for serving the highest number of kids — more than 2,000 kids a day — in the Pacific Region, which includes California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii.
The Boys & Girls Club has until the end of October to pack up and move out of the building. Part of the complication in finding a new facility is cost. The club paid the City $1 a year to lease the building.
“We need the community to be aware of what we do,” Duke said.
Duke added some of the former youth who started at the club as seven-year-olds when it opened in 1991 might want to come back as adults to say their goodbyes.
There are upgrades, including a teen center in the back of the building, that will be left behind. A wood basketball floor and a volleyball floor will be put in storage along with the other items such as a computers.
The club has programs at some Palmdale School District school sites. But having the standalone center provided more access to youth and teens. The club was open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Duke said they knew they wanted the Boys & Girls Club to have its own building. They did not expect they would need to find one so soon. A capital campaign to build a building is a long-term goal but that does not meet the immediate needs of children and families impacted by the center’s closure.
It’s too soon to say whether the Hammack Center will be demolished. The City has to look at the building’s structural integrity. There are also heating, ventilation and air conditioning issues, along with electrical and roof issues. City officials will look at the cost of a remodel vs. a demolition, plus a potential rebuild and whether the current location is appropriate.
“The Boys & Girls Club have been a great partner,” Murphy said. “We want to continue to be a good partner. They provide a needed service in this community.”
The building is named after Deputy Richard B. Hammack, who was killed May 11, 1992, in the line of duty.
“We will not forget the legacy of that deputy,” Murphy said.
City officials are holding internal meetings to determine which facility in the City will be named after Hammack.