A place for the kids

Oak Harbor native aims to open a safe hangout for city’s youth

Victor Rojas wants kids to stop hanging out at Office Max, and he recently approached the Oak Harbor City Council for help.

“I’ve seen what’s needed in this town,” Rojas said.

What’s needed, he said, is a place for the city’s youth to hang out.

He wants to convert the current WAIF building on Midway into The Hangout Arcade and Lounge after the thrift shop moves out.

The 11,000-square foot building needs renovations to come up to code for that use, however.

Though Rojas doesn’t anticipate opening the doors until 2020, he asked the council to consider using local funds allowed for rehabilitation and improvement of regional centers.

Rojas estimates he’ll need about $120,000 to add a sprinkler system, handicap access, men’s and women’s bathroom stalls and a new breaker box.

Rojas said last year he was inspired to pursue this venture by witnessing middle and high school students walking around town after class, maybe ending up at Starbucks or sitting on the furniture at Office Max. He has four daughters, one of whom is a senior at Oak Harbor High School, and another a sixth grader at Oak Harbor Intermediate School.

“I was just driving around looking at the town I grew up in and noticing there’s not much to do,” he said.

When he was in middle and high school, Rojas said he was able to spend much of his free time at Bears Arcade and the Neutral Zone.

Rojas said he had strict parents, he said, but they would drop him off at those places knowing that he could safely spend time with other people his age.

Rojas said he’s concerned about young people not socializing enough in person. He wants The Hangout to be a place where kids can play, but also gain necessary communication skills.

“You become what you’re surrounded by,” he said.

To facilitate this, he plans to have monthly socials divided by grade level. He has even decided which days of the month each social will occur. Despite not having a building yet, Rojas has already planned out many of the finer details.

Free amateur comedy nights will be Wednesdays. There will be robotics classes taught by Machine Shop owner Tim Leonard. He’ll provide a sitting area with wifi for students to do homework, and those who bring in report cards showing straight A’s for the quarter will get their name posted and a gift of their choice.

“I want to give motivation for kids to do better in school and for them to be rewarded for that publicly,” he said.

The Hangout won’t only be a place to play games and go to socials, he plans on reserving six staff positions for high school students. He wants to “help start their journey into the work force to better understand responsibility and social skills.”

He’s even already decided there will be a sign with the word “respect” at the front door.

In addition to asking for funding from the city, he’s started fundraising by posting about his vision on social media. He’s started a bank account that is only for The Hangout, and he said all proceeds from donations and future fundraiser events will go directly into it.

He has a ways to go, but he said he’s confident he’ll see his dream realized.

“It’s not if, it’s when.”