Earlier this month, a new entertainment center opened in Ketchikan with a goal of catering to families and providing “old school” community youth activities.
Dee Wright, a Ketchikan woman who also owns The Manor, an assisted living home, opened W.F. Madden's “as a tribute” to late resident William Frank Madden. The center is located at 2409 First Ave., in a building that some may remember as “the old church.”
W.F. Madden's specifically serves families, pre-teens and young adults.
“It's kid-friendly, and I want them hanging around,” Wright said about the ideal audience for W.F. Madden's.
The entertainment center currently has pool tables, dartboards and foosball tables. Foosball is a free activity, while darts and pool each cost 50 cents per game.
Wright manages the space, and the day-to-day operations of the center will be conducted by Kriestone Gementiza, who Wright met through the Ketchikan Pool League.
Wright began seriously looking for a space for W.F. Madden's late last summer. Her inspiration was her own children, who she said are “at that in-between age” where there are fewer community activities for them to get involved with. Wright said that she knows most parents might not want to bring their kids to spaces that have alcohol to play pool and other games, and for that reason will make W.F. Madden's family friendly and without alcohol.
“(The goal is) to give the kids a safe environment,” Wright said. “I think we need to pull the community in together.”
The process of opening the space was harder than Wright originally imagined it to be. While she called herself “naive” about matters like building codes and parking variances, Wright was able to file the appropriate paperwork and make various presentations during a short period of time to make sure that W.F. Madden's opened this month.
One challenge presented to Wright concerned parking variances for the old building, which took time away from prepping the interior of the building for the opening. Also difficult was finding equipment and moving the 800-pound, 8-foot pool tables into the space. Wright said a number of “local heroes” made it possible to position the tables in the space.
The building that is now W.F. Madden's has three levels, starting at street level and working down two floors. The main level is where activities like foosball and pool are set up. The second floor will function as a kitchen and eatery in the future, with additional open spaces for birthday parties or other events. The bottom level will need repairs and a new boiler.
Regardless of challenges, the space opened in early July and attendance has been increasing over the past two weeks. Wright said she wants families to continue to visit, but also wants to give youth aged junior high through 21-years-old a place to hang out and play pool, among other activities.
Wright mentioned that she hopes access to games like pool and darts shows kids that they don't have to be the best at an activity to enjoy it, nor do they need to be good at sports. She has already secured fellow Ketchikan Pool League members to mentor and instruct kids who are interested in playing pool. Wright hopes that in the future, W.F. Madden's would be able to send a team to the national pool competitions that happen throughout the country year-round.
In addition to improvements to the pool tables and activities, W.F. Madden's also has many goals concerning the building for the near future.
Not only does Wright want to open the second level of the building as an eatery to serve food and snacks to kids and their families, but she also wants to fill the main level with more activities. Currently, she is on the hunt for a ping pong table and extra dartboards. Wright has also been considering an online gaming space for the center, in addition to a robotics competition space on the second level.
Wright already has been in contact with representatives from national youth robotics teams that would be willing to teach and coach interested Ketchikan kids.
“I want to show kids there's other stuff out there,” Wright said.
As of now, W.F. Madden's is open from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. Wright said that the hours of operation and what activities are provided will be partially based on community response.
“I want to know what the community wants to do,” Wright commented.