08/08/04 — Slocumb Game Room

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Slocumb Game Room

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on August 8, 2004 2:14 AM

It's late afternoon at Greg's Game Room on Slocumb Street. A group of pre-teens jostles to shoot pool, play video games or select tunes on the jukebox.

At this time of day, the 10-to-12-year-olds dominate the room, sipping soda and eating snacks while they await their turn at the pool table.

"Nothing much else to do around here," says 11-year-old Tavon. "Sometimes we get on teams and play."

One older teenager, 19-year-old James, hangs back near the snack bar. He says he likes to play the jukebox.

"Before the game room, we could only play basketball," James said. "That's about all there is to do around here. Used to, they'd turn on some sprinklers in the summer, but not anymore. This game room keeps the kids out of trouble."

The place, which opens at 4 p.m. and stays open to 11 p.m., attracts younger kids in the late afternoon and early evening.

As the evening ages, so do the patrons.

By 9 p.m., the place is filled with older teenagers and men. They gather round the pool tables, with smoke from the cigarettes hanging out of their mouths curling upwards towards the ceiling.

It's this mingling of ages that has some nearby residents concerned, and is why some are protesting the business's request to expand the game room.

Felecia Cameron lives in the nearby Courtyard Apartments with her six children, ranging in ages from 3 to 15.

"I don't like the game room and I'm struggling to keep my 15-year-old away from there," she said. "Sometimes he says he's playing basketball, but he ends up hanging out over there."

The biggest problem she has with it is that adults that go there.

"I just don't like adults and children both going to the same place for recreation," she said. "There are so many different attitudes. I don't feel comfortable letting them go loose around there."

Hilda Hill and her son Greg, operate the game room. The have asked the city for a special use permit to allow them to expand it. Right now they have two pool tables and two video games, and they would like to add two of each.

At a public hearing two weeks, three people spoke against the game room, calling it a "pool hall" and saying it drew the wrong crowd.

Heavy truck traffic going through the back gates of the base was another concern cited by citizens at the hearing.

Neighbor Mary Rhoe stood outside the game room on one recent weekday afternoon and watched the children run across the busy street.

She said that 10-year-old Shavaye, intent on getting to the game room, almost got hit by a car that he never noticed.

"It's dangerous," Ms. Rhoe said.

Mrs. Hill says that the game room is safe, and that in the afternoons it gives the kids in the area a place to gather together.

"I'm kind of like their babysitter," she said.

But Ms. Cameron says she'd like to see better things offered in the area for her children.

"I'd like to see after-school tutoring," she said. "Or even Bible classes."

Eleven-year-old Quashida said she sometimes went to the game room because there wasn't really "anything else to do."

"If I could have anything I wanted out here, I'd like to have a place where we could learn to dance," she said. "And have talent shows."

Her friend, 11-year-old Taniqua, said that going out to places in the neighborhood could be dangerous.

"See," she said, "All they do around here is shoot, so you have to be careful."