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Generations Center unveiled; youth, city lauded for their vision
People stream in to see the Lathrop Generations Center, which debuted to the public on Friday afternoon. The 9,500-square-foot facility features a skate park, teen center, public library, amphitheater, Parkour course, computer lab and community garden. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

LATHROP – When Cedric Mitchell met with Lathrop officials in a vacant field across from Lathrop High School it was hard to picture what was being pitched to him.

There was no perspective – the wide open grassy expanses literally serving as a blank canvas for whatever lofty ideas that city planners and elected officials wanted to dream up on the spot for a tandem library and teen center. 

And lofty is what they went for. 

But Mitchell, the Deputy Director of External Affairs for the California Department of Parks and Recreation, could see the passion behind the pitch. He knew that Lathrop, who had already been denied once already for Proposition 84 grant funding, went out and created funding mechanisms with the hope of building the state-of-the-art complex on their own. 

He knew what success looked like. And in his remarks to the hundreds of people that filled the shade canopies outside of The Generations Center on Friday afternoon, Mitchell talked about what the finished product will bring to the community in the future and the thousands that will immediately benefit from its wares.

“What you have in this community is the true sense that one’s destiny truly lies in their own hands,” Mitchell said. “The city received this not just because they earned it, but because they deserved it. 

“What you have here now is a gift – a gift that you’ve given to each other, a gift from the people to the State of California that will live on posterity.”

The ribbon cutting on Friday took place just one year and six days after the first dirt was turned on the parcel of property that was ultimately the second choice for the site – the first being a dilapidated, 1,200-square-foot home on the other side of I-5 that would have required extensive work to make inhabitable. 

Kayne Saybrook, the developer that owns the property in the Central Lathrop area, worked with the city to make the property available, and the consortium of LDA Partners, ATI Architects and Engineers and Diede Construction worked together to raise the state-of-the-art building. 

A $5 million grant from the State of California funded the teen center portion of the complex and the wide range of outdoor amenities – a skate park that has been packed for days, a parkour course that could be the only kind like it in the nation and an outdoor amphitheater that will host its first concert on Sunday – and the funding initially pieced together to bankroll the project allowed for the Lathrop branch of the San Joaquin County Public Library to be added on. 

The idea behind the project was pushed for extensively by the Lathrop Youth Advisory Commission but quickly took on a role that touched nearly every city staffer’s desk before the final sign-off was completed. Vice Mayor Omar Ornelas, who was on the YAC at the time that the idea was being thrown around, was so ecstatic to be cutting the ribbon on Friday that he only knew one way to channel that to everybody he came into contact with.

“I’ve hugged like 100 people so far today – I’m just so excited about what this means to our community,” he said. “I’m lucky to have grown up here and I’m looking forward to being here for years to come, and if I try to give you a hug, don’t run away. 

“Just accept it. Share the love. Spread the love.”

Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal reminded the youth that played such a major role in the early formation of the concept of the importance of paying it forward.

“We built such a beautiful teen center for you,” he said. “Maybe you guys can build an amazing senior center for us.”