The students checked in at the front desk and took seats at large tables set up for a 40-minute mandatory homework session. Several children purchased an after-school snack at the concession stand.
The Kirtland Youth Facility, on County Road 6500 and on the north side of U.S. 64, opened for students Jan. 4. The Kirtland Youth Association's after-school program previously was held at the old Grace B. Wilson Elementary School's gymnasium southwest of Kirtland Central High School.
"There was no guidelines at the old building. It was a mess already and if (the students) made a mess, it was no big deal," said Darien Kamae, a senior at Kirtland Central who works for the after-school program. "Here they know they are supposed to keep it clean. It makes my job easier."
The Kirtland Youth Association, organized in 1997, will host a grand opening ceremony at 10:45 a.m. Saturday for its permanent facility seven years after its board of directors began surveying Kirtland for a place to build the facility.
"When we first started, we didn't have land, we didn't have anything. We just had a vision," said Charles Kromer, the executive director of the Kirtland Youth Association.
An unincorporated area, Kirtland residents couldn't vote on a bond or tax to help fund the facility, he said.
The 10,000-square-foot complex was built with grant money, donations from area businesses and San Juan County government, Kromer said.
The facility consists of a full-size basketball court, a playground, office and storage space and bathrooms that are connected to the Kirtland sewer system.
There are 341 second- to eighth-grade students involved in a basketball league organized by the association, and about 170 students are in the after-school programs.
More than 700 students enrolled in at least one of the youth association programs in 2011, Kromer said.
"People don't know how many kids are out in that area," he said.
There long was a need in Kirtland for a permanent youth facility, Kromer said. About 65 percent of Kirtland families have two working parents, 20 percent of children come from single-parent homes and 20 percent are living in poverty, he said
The goal of the new facility is to increase the number of students enrolled in youth association programs, Kromer said.
The basketball program costs $50 for children to participate, the after-school program costs $60 per semester and the summer program costs $75.
There are plans to eventually add another 5,000 square feet of classroom and kitchen space, Kromer said.
"We want to make it a full service community center," he said. "There's nothing out there in Kirtland. ... This is something the whole community can be proud of."