Discover spaces and places for tweens and teens in the 425

February 21, 2012

By David Hayes

Dylan Wall (left) and Patrick White, in the band Buster Austero, perform at the Old Fire House Teen Center in Redmond. By Greg Farrar

‘I’m bored’ is no longer a legit excuse

Issaquah ain’t the quaint little town it used to be. In the past decade alone, the number of people living within the pocket community grew from 11,000 in the year 2000 to more than 30,000 in the latest Census 2010 figures.

With so many tech industries drawing families here, the burgeoning population is straining all age demographics.

Especially teens. With busy sports and school activity schedules, ever-demanding graduation requirements or even the time consumption of volunteering or gainful employment, what’s a teen to do to find a little down time?

Just about every small town has a version of the joke, “The only thing to do here is leave.” Luckily for teens, Issaquah is smack dab in the middle of the 425 area code and opportunities abound to find something to do without looking too far. Here’s a look at just three options to investigate.

Old Fire House Teen Center

Sure, Issaquah has its own youth center, but this is about expanding options. Look no further than the city of Redmond’s Old Fire House Teen Center. Located on a cross street in the heart of downtown Redmond at 15670 N.E. 85th St., this teen gathering joint is literally a converted fire station. The parking lot is rather small, so consider car-pooling or getting dropped off for the many events within its confines.

Walk into the former engine bay, and there is literally more than 75 feet of couches to lounge upon. Interspersed throughout are pool and air hockey tables, an arts center and even a TV room to plop down with the latest Xbox 360 game.

Casey Catherwood was a longtime regular at the center before graduating from Redmond High School. Rather than part ways, after college he returned to be events coordinator, in charge of the numerous drop-in, after-school programming.

425 activity guide

Sure, tween and teen activities abound on the Eastside. Get the scoop on some of the best.

Indoor rock climbing

Vertical World

Stone Gardens

Indoor Go Kart racing

Sykart Indoor Racing Center

  • 17450 W. Valley Highway, Tukwila
  • 251-5060
  • $16/nonmembers; $2 helmet use

K1 Speed

  • 2207 N.E. Bel-Red Road, Redmond
  • location.html
  • 455-9999
  • Drivers under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
  • $20/nonmembers, $6 first-time license, race packages available


Dance Premier

Issaquah Dance Theatre

Dance Academy of Bellevue/Issaquah

World Dance Barn

“This is a great place for kids hungry for resources,” he said. “The events are programmed to teens’ interests because they’re designed by the teens themselves.”

Perhaps the biggest draw at the Fire House is its music studio and performance stage.

Got a band? Come in to practice in the recording studio, complete with a mixing board and engineer.

Need an audience? The raised, lighted stage looks out upon the dance floor filled with regular Friday night crowds.

After the staff house band kicks things off, other acts wait in the wings, like junior Seb Choe. He describes his solo act Uda Ox as a “scary mix.”

“I’ve been coming here since elementary school,” Choe said. “It’s a super cool place for teens. You don’t get judged and there’s always something going on.”

Crossroads Mall card tournaments

Wander the corridors of Crossroads Mall around the food court and you’ll eventually end up in front of Uncles Games. Quite regularly, the schedule of events Uncles hosts spills out into said corridors, like the recent Pokémon City Championship.

Imagine in the days of yore, taking your collection of baseball cards, pitting the best players against another collector’s best athletes in a cerebral match to the death. Now, insert Anime characters, and you’ve got Pokémon tournaments.

While the ages competing include participants 10 and younger and up to 14, the biggest group represented are the older teens in the masters category of 15 and older.

Tournament organizer Jim Lambkee was drawn into volunteering for the tournaments thanks to the success of his own daughter in the popular card game.

“The turnout is usually huge,” he said. “This location is well-suited for players who love the mall atmosphere.”

While it’s easy to fill an entire garage with a never-ending new pack of Pokémon cards, it takes quite the savvy player to build just the right deck that is a winner among contenders. Species like Rayquaza, Raikou, Venusaur and Crobat can mean the difference between life and death, if you know how to use them.

Hudson Du, 17, is still building a better deck. To do this, he participates in the pre-tournament tradition of the trade. Flipping through another player’s notebook, he’s always on the look for a powerful card that could turn a match in his favor.

“I’ve only been doing this for a year,” Du said. “But I enjoy the friendly environment. Plus, it’s somewhere I can bring my cousins along.”

Du added he’s still looking for his first top placement in one of the tourneys.

Inside Uncles Games, the list of upcoming events is endless. The number of additional types of card tournaments is daunting, so if Pokémon isn’t your cup of tea, they’ve got something bound to draw you in, from Magic: the Gathering to Warmachine & Hordes. Ask fame specialist Laura Maserman, these aren’t your D&D nerds from years past.

Bryce Swearingen (left), 9, looks on as Hudson Du, 17, picks out his tournament deck at Crossroads Mall in Bellevue. By Greg Farrar

“With the price range, each game is affordable, has a range of ages and is a great place here to hang with your friends while picking up a new hobby,” she said.

Church youth groups

When traveling through the 425 region, perhaps what teens seek isn’t harmless fun. Rather, like a growing number, a teen just might be looking for a higher power to help guide him or her through the teen years.

For that, churches throughout the 425 have their own youth groups. One of the biggest is Eastridge’s. Their new facility was built on the edge of the plateau at 24205 S.E. Issaquah-Fall City Road. There, a teen can enlist the guidance of Josh Jamison. A 2002 graduate of Skyline High School, Jamison has returned from higher educational learning to be the church’s youth pastor.

Regardless of denomination, Jamison said church youth groups have several things in common.

“Teens are exposed to media pressures, even in Sammamish and Issaquah, to the cheap imitation of what life is supposed to be,” Jamison said.

To help them wade through media noise onslaught, youth groups connect like-minded teens who are unsure where their path leads, but know that their guide will be Jesus.

Most of their Wednesday night activities draw between 140 and 150 teens, Jamison said. Between that and Sunday, that number can easily reach 300.

Jamison said today’s youth groups aren’t about just sitting around and reading the Bible. Eastridge schedules regular events. But one of their biggest of the year is Compel, featuring bands, DJs, food, contests, giveaways and more.

“It’s a major event geared toward fun,” Jamison said. “It’s geared toward those who wouldn’t normally come to church.”

In between the dancing, the doughnut-eating contests and live bands, Jamison said teens are invited to share their stories.

“Kids get to hear from real kids about how Jesus helped me,” he said.

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