Good ideas can happen at any time and any place. Kaden Barker’s ideas for a place for students to hangout after school came to him while he was on a trampoline with friends Adam Younie and J'Air Johnson.
Youth For Christ has taken over the Barron Theater. Their vision for the theater is remarkably like Barker's ideas for a hang out place and was a factor in Youth for Christ being in the Barron.
Barker wanted something more than the Teen Center and Simplys (slang for Simply Southwest) for a place to hang out. He wanted a place to eat, have fun watching movies, play games, use gaming systems on the movie screen, have competitions and even have an area to do homework.
Part of his idea for the gaming system was getting several people playing at the same time and using the big theater screen so they could have big images of their zombies, spiders, skeletons, villagers, squids and other characters while they were playing. Young people of all ages can use these systems, it’s not for just a small age group. Some of this gaming is very intricate and actually takes the players into coding, said dad Tim Barker.
The Liberty Middle School sixth grader’s idea took place a couple of years ago and he has come up with a business plan to make it work. Part of Barker's dream included some elements that would be difficult to have inside the Barron. He considered a zip-line from the top to the bottom level of the theater. That's probably not going to be feasible but it’s fun to think about it. He'd also like to have a rock wall and a blowup trampoline.
Some of the more manageable ideas include some classic video arcade games — think Pac Man and Galaga — plus free Wifi and free music.
Although he is sixth grader, Barker also understands that all these ideas cost money. He looked up prices and discovered that arcade games are not cheap. He's been thinking about how to get people to donate to make these dreams come true. He even joked that he would try to get his dad to tap dance to raise money.
The Barker family had been trying to sell the Barron to someone or group with a plan, resources and the personnel to operate the theater, Tim said.
When Youth for Christ approached the Barkers about buying the Barron, their vision for the building and Kaden's ideas and plans had a lot of similarities, said Joel Williamson, executive director for Youth For Christ.
Tim said that combination was what he had been looking for in his quest for the future of the Barron.
"When Tim described Kaden's plan, his vision fit our plans," Williamson said. "It was a really good confirmation that his vision lined up with ours."
Since then, Youth for Christ has taken over the theater and with some substantial donations, have done a make-over to better serve the young people of Pratt.
The redo has been in two phases. Phase One is the lobby and upper balcony. The office just off the lobby has new carpet and paint. The lobby has been cleaned, the original restrooms changed into offices and the water fountain that didn't work has been removed, Williamson said.
The biggest change was in the upper balcony. The seats were removed, three platform areas were created for activity space, railings were added for protection, new carpeting is on the way, the walls and ceiling were painted in vivid colors, the areas on both sides of the former projection room were opened up for usable space and to let more light in and air conditioning units were added to make the space more sustainable, Williamson said.
An art room with a light box for tracing is a possible fit for one of the rooms by the projection booth while game equipment like pingpong, foosball, basketball game, air hockey would take the other space.
A wall resembling a city skyline was added in front of the projection room and will be covered with a dry erase board.
The center level will be left open for a variety of activities. The lower level will have, besides gaming systems, chairs and beanbag chairs, will have an area in the first eight feet in front of the screen for messy games. The balcony screen will accommodate four X-Boxes at the same time with 16 people playing at once. No super violent games will be used for X-Box.
Williamson would like to have a Super Bowl party for the children and have the facility available for community events as well.
Phase Two is the lower theater that has not started yet. It includes new carpeting that will match, as much as possible the old style, increasing the seating capacity with leftover chairs from the upper balcony, putting a stage on top of the orchestra pit, installing another digital projector and eventually showing films for the community, perhaps a couple a month, with a free will concessions stand. Another air conditioner is also planned.
The movies would not be first run but probably about a year old. Their intention is not to compete with first run movies. Ticket prices have not been set.
While the upper theater has changed substantially, Williamson said they want to keep as much of the lower theater as they can and preserve the architecture but still make it functional. No time line for Phase Two has been set.
Youth for Christ Ministry is 20 years old and their outreach is primarily for unchurched young people. These new facilities at the Barron will help them spread the story of Jesus to young people in need.
"We see a lot of at-risk kids come through our door," Williamson said. "We think the Barron will be a big draw."
They meet on Tuesday nights and have averaged 40 to 50 at those meetings. Grades 5-7 meet from 6:16 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and 8-12.
Future plans include having the Barron open after school for high schoolers.
The first Campus Life meeting in the new facility is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 1, Williamson said.