Shiprock — The sound of hammers and drills echo as construction continues on the new Shiprock Multi-Purpose Youth Complex.

Since breaking ground in March, construction is about 30 percent complete, with a projected end date in April 2014.

Last week, some workers were busy completing mechanical duct work for the heating and cooling system while others laid the gravel foundation for the facility's parking lot, located north of the Shiprock Post Office on U.S. Highway 491.

The complex is under construction by Arviso Construction Co., which is Navajo-owned and based in Iyanbito. It was designed by Dyron Murphy Architects, an architect firm in Albuquerque.

V.J. Johnson works with a welding torch on Thursday at the new Shiprock Multi-Purpose Youth Complex. The project, which broke ground in March, is about 30
V.J. Johnson works with a welding torch on Thursday at the new Shiprock Multi-Purpose Youth Complex. The project, which broke ground in March, is about 30 percent complete. (Jon Austria The Daily Times)

Since the gymnasium's framework started rising, project superintendent Sammy Robinson has heard from community members about how grateful they are to see the facility occupying the land.

With problems like alcohol, drugs, gangs and domestic violence on the reservation, Robinson is happy the tribe is building the facility to provide children and teenagers an escape.

"This will give them the opportunity to change their lives," he said.

Building a new facility for the youth was first proposed in 1984, said Wetona Becenti, program supervisor for the Office of Youth Development's Shiprock Agency.

The delay was due to funding, but the youth department is "very excited" about the construction, she said.

Construction started in May on the 22,170-square-foot complex.

At the heart of the building is a medium-sized gymnasium, fitness room and lockers. The east side will house game and art rooms, learning and technology centers, and a teen room.

Youth and the community suggested a swimming pool and a movie theater, but those amenities were not included because of the cost.

"We didn't stray too far from what the youth requested," Becenti said.

Sammy Robinson, project superintendent for the Shiprock Multi-Purpose Youth Complex, looks over blueprints on Thursday at the construction site. Robinson
Sammy Robinson, project superintendent for the Shiprock Multi-Purpose Youth Complex, looks over blueprints on Thursday at the construction site. Robinson said community members have expressed gratitude for the new facility. (Jon Austria The Daily Times)

On the building's north side will be a courtyard with native plants and a sidewalk shaped in the pattern of a Navajo wedding basket.

The west side of the building will be the future home of the Office of Diné Youth.

Starting next year, the Office of Youth Development will be renamed the Office of Diné Youth because the department will no longer be affiliated with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Services and programs will not change under the new name, Becenti said.

Navajo Housing Authority provided $6.7 million for the project through the Indian Housing Plan of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act.

Ramsey Singer, development coordinator with the grants department at NHA, said the housing entity became involved with the project as part of its crime prevention program.

With NHA housing surrounding the area, the facility will provide local youth an outlet to keep away from criminal activity, he said.

"We want to do these types of facilities to help our kids and communities," Singer said.

NHA is also funding construction of another Office of Youth Development facility in Fort Defiance, Ariz., and completing designs for complexes in Crownpoint and in Shonto, Ariz.

Electrician Colton Chesnut works Thursday at the new Shiprock Multi-Purpose Youth Complex. Construction is projected to finish in April 2014.
Electrician Colton Chesnut works Thursday at the new Shiprock Multi-Purpose Youth Complex. Construction is projected to finish in April 2014. (Jon Austria The Daily Times)

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636. nsmith@daily-times.com Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.