Scott Leonard
Valley Voices

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August 16, 2014
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Vail Daily column: Help needed for teen hangout

Growing up in San Antonio, there were so many things to do on the weekends. We had a movie theater with 18 screens, some large game rooms with video games, pool tables, ping-pong and 30 lanes to go bowling. There was the putt putt/bumper boats place, some enormous malls, Six Flags and many other options. My friends and I always looked forward to what the weekends had to offer!

I have been working with high school and middle school students in the Vail Valley for over eight years now as a teacher, student pastor and as a Young Life leader. Four years ago, I realized that our students really lacked things to do on the weekends. When I planned lock-ins, the whole valley would show up and overwhelm the volunteers and me. I started to think about creating a cool place where students could be social and hang out with their friends, especially on the weekends. There are only four movies in the theatres, and one can only roam the Riverwalk for so long before they are either bored or start getting into trouble. Bored teenagers on a weekend night is something that no one wants roaming around!

One and a half years ago, in March of 2013, I looked at every space in Edwards that we could turn into a community game room/ living room — a space that teenagers would love and parents would love. A space that could be used for various student groups, private parties and even business meetings. Soon enough I found the perfect space on the back side of the Riverwalk. When a few parents heard what I was up to, they hopped on board and told all of their friends. Before I knew it, we had raised our entire first year of rent and had the following donated from various families and businesses: a pool table, ping-pong table, foosball table, air hockey table, pinball machine, three bistro tables, a 60-inch TV, a dinner table and chairs, A/V pros installing all of our A/V stuff, electricians, dads building our stage and coffee bar and many people asking, “What else do you need?” Every parent who walked through the doors of “The Basement” had their jaw drop to the floor when they walked in. With our high-end finishes and cool vibe, parents kept saying things like, “I feel like I’m at the Ritz!” and “Can we have a party here?”

Shortly thereafter, Young Life was meeting here on Monday nights, the BMHS lacrosse team was here every other Friday night (having a team dinner, watching film and hanging out), a few businesses had meetings here in the morning followed by lunch and some healthy competitions, a friend had his 50th here and the coolest baby shower ever took place here. Everyone was having the time of their life — except for our downvalley friends. “Scott, what about us?” were the new phone calls.

So, here we go again! The Loft is about to open above The Dusty Boot in Eagle Ranch. It is the same concept: An 1,800 square foot, high-end community game room/living room that various groups can rent out for parties, meetings, sports teams, etc.

We’ve already had people donate a pool table, ping-pong table and foosball table. Slifer Designs heard what was going on and is helping with furniture. The Paint Bucket is giving us paint. Everyone is helping out again!

I think we’ve stumbled upon something our valley desperately needs! Now, here’s what we need:

The Basement and The Loft are nonprofit/ 501c3s under a foundation of everyone’s favorite ranch in the valley, 4 Eagle Ranch. Though we do rent our space out a few times per month and a $5 suggested donation is offered for students who come to game nights on the weekends, paying rent is going to be tough during Year 2. The people who own the space that The Basement is in have been so gracious to us but they hope to sell the space. We need someone to invest in our students by purchasing it for student use, and then rent it back to us. Our lease is set up so that if someone buys it we have a short amount of time to move out, and therefore I operate out of a little bit of fear as I look down the road. Would you or someone you know be willing to be an angel donor for all of the students in the valley? We’re not looking for a donor to give money but rather an investor to own some space and rent it to us. The space is listed at $399,000, and I’m in the process of looking for a handful of people who could invest $50,000-$100,000. Let’s get coffee!

Scott Leonard can be reached at thebasementriverwalk@gmail.com and 970-376-7971.

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The VailDaily Updated Aug 16, 2014 08:33PM Published Aug 16, 2014 12:03PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.