Germantown rec center draws a playful crowd during extended weekend hours

With the city’s youth curfew extended beyond summer, eight city recreation centers are staying open until 10 p.m. The Lonnie Young Recreation Center at 1100 E. Chelten Ave. in Germantown is among them.

Around 9 p.m. on Saturday, nearly 20 youths took advantage of the later hours, which are seen as a way to provide a viable option to hanging on city streets which were home to the summer’s marauding violence that prompted the curfew in the first place.

There were games, movies, food, arts and crafts, and laughs. There were also athletic programs including football, cheerleading and baseball. On this night, one group of teens did battle with a deck of UNO cards while some of the younger kids took to the gym floor for a hula-hoop contest.

The crowd size mirrored that of previous weeks, if not a somewhat smaller crowd because of youth sporting events in the neighborhood that night.

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Benard Lightly, 13, said he enjoys the chance to play basketball with his friends later on the weekends. He has taken advantage of the extra time since it was first instituted in August.

“Kids are very excited about the extended hours. We try to provide a safe haven for them,” said rec center employee Florence McMillan. “They just need someone to care.”

The center will continue staying open late as long as the extended hours last. Mark McDonald, spokesman for Mayor Michael Nutter, said that will be the case “for the forseeable future.”

Nutter plans to work with City Council on a new ordinance that would update the city’s curfew. Initially implemented in 1955, it was updated in 2007. Those discussions will commence in the near future, McDonald said.

Police reported a combined 75 curfew violations were issued on Friday and Saturday nights.

“If the extended hours continue, it will be a lot better for our youth. We love the extra hours for our kids,” Coach Jonto “Mook” Swift said. “More recs should be extended this late.”

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