Marquette Rec Center continues extended hours for youth; downtown parties put on pause

The extended hours at the Marquette Rec Center continue to be sponsored by St. Louis City as a way to give kids a safe place to go.
Published: Aug. 12, 2023 at 10:39 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - The extended hours at the Marquette Rec Center continue to be sponsored by St. Louis City as a way to give kids a safe place to go.

Arah Anderson is a mom of 10 and runs the extended-hours program.

“It definitely became a community project and not just for the teens that are in trouble,” Anderson said.

Anderson said she has seen firsthand how hard it is for kids to find things to do.

“I have boys, and they’re in their own trouble and doing stuff,” Anderson said. “It’s really about that they need supervision and activities.”

But it’s not just about giving them the space.

Anderson said they talk to the kids about safety and try to become mentors.

“Connect, vibe with them and then have somebody to look up to,” Anderson said. “Every kid needs a champion outside their parents.”

The downtown youth parties are now on pause.

This comes after the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department said about 300 teens stayed downtown last Saturday hours after the city-sponsored youth party ended.

Earlier this week, News 4 spoke to Les Sterman with Citizens For A Greater Downtown, who tells us he understands why the city wants to find safe spaces for the youth.

However, Sterman said downtown isn’t it.

“Many of those young people stayed downtown, roamed around downtown in groups,” Sterman said. “It took a lot of police resources to maintain order, and we were very fortunate that another tragedy didn’t happen that’s been associated with young people downtown.”

Anderson said events like that are needed downtown, making safe spaces accessible to kids throughout the city.

“You can walk here if you’re in the neighborhood,” Anderson said. “If you’re downtown you’re going to have to be on the bus and then find a parent that wants to bring you to the location. It will be very hard for the kids.”

Anderson said she wants to see this program continue throughout the school year and during any breaks.

“We have to be consistent,” Anderson said. “That’s what we haven’t been with the kids. We have to be consistent with them.”

News 4 did reach out to Alderwoman Cara Spencer, who said she wasn’t aware of these downtown events ahead of time.

Alderwoman Spencer sent us this statement:

“Downtown late at night is not a place for youth. Most of the businesses open at that time serve alcohol and cater to an adult population. I would like to express my deep desire to not see the city engage in this type of event again downtown late at night. While I recognize the intention was good, the reality was a dangerous situation for all involved, especially our youth.”