On March 22, 1997, the first seed for the Collings Teen Center emerged in a West Sacramento living room. A half-dozen community members gathered there that night, sensing the desperate needs of many West Sacramento teenagers and exploring together whether the concept of a teen center was the answer.
By 1999, the group had engaged with Campus Life Connection, a local non-profit already operating effective teen centers in Elk Grove and Carmichael. With the help of Campus Life’s … er, connections … the group began to make inroads with the community’s corporate sector. A breakthrough materialized when the group landed a meeting with the Sacramento River Cats, the area’s new Triple-A baseball team.
Only months before, the River Cats had completed an astonishing feat by drawing together the City of Sacramento, the City of West Sacramento, and Yolo County in a three-way deal that ultimately produced a jewel of a ballpark, Raley Field, in West Sacramento. Calling on many of the same personalities and catalysts that had brokered the Raley Field project, the River Cats and their partners brought a mighty corporate push to the teen center effort. In the middle of the project was well-known local philanthropist Chuck Collings, ex-CEO of Raley’s and himself a key player in the Raley Field deal.
With corporate commitments beginning to mount, the teen center’s steering committee went searching for a facility and came across an old bank warehouse on Merkley Avenue, then owned by a local carpenter’s union. The building was decaying and uninhabitable on the inside but its geography was perfect – a 10-minute walk from the local high school, and one block from the West Capitol corridor, where some of West Sacramento’s neediest families resided.
Purchase of the building was completed in 2001, and a wall-breaking ceremony marked the beginning of the sizable renovation in 2002. Raley’s, the River Cats, Sundt Construction, and numerous other partners poured hundreds of hours of in-kind labor into the project. Helping to coordinate the effort was the center’s new executive director, Dave Dove, a longtime youth worker and parenting workshop speaker. The decision was also made to honor Chuck and Frances Collings for their enduring community generosity and leadership, so the building was thus christened the Collings Teen Center.
When the ribbon-cutting ceremony arrived in May 2004, hundreds of visitors came to behold a renovation that was breathtaking. In the place of rotted floorboards and dilapidated walls, there now stood a gleaming performance stage, four new pool tables, air hockey and ping pong tables, classrooms for tutoring and meetings, a caged basketball court, a raised deck for video games, a full weight room, full service snack bar, and sound and projection system.
Since its opening in 2004, the Collings Teen Center has become a key partner for law enforcement, the Washington Unified School District, the City of West Sacramento, local libraries and churches, and a myriad of youth-service organizations. Free to students and funded entirely by donations and grants, it stands as a remarkable testament to the strength of community spirit and the deep commitment of West Sacramentans to their young people.