They hang out in parking lots. They create concoctions from the condiments at Starbucks. If it seems teenagers are everywhere in the city...

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They hang out in parking lots. They create concoctions from the condiments at Starbucks.

If it seems teenagers are everywhere in the city of Sammamish, it’s because they are.

Roughly a third of the city’s population is under 18, according to the 2000 census, but there’s no mall, movie theater or bowling alley.

With gas at nearly $4 a gallon, parents and teens are increasingly reluctant to drive to Issaquah or Redmond for entertainment.

For some, it’s going to be a cruel summer.

“If you talk to the kids, there is a lot of boredom which of course leads to things they shouldn’t be doing,” said Kristin Pitt, mother of three teens.

Incorporated in 1999, Sammamish has long suffered growing pains. The city struggled to build roads and sidewalks to keep pace with development. City leaders even instituted a building moratorium in an effort to catch up with growth.

So when the city built a $300,000 skatepark in front of City Hall, teens braved the December 2006 snow and ice to try it, even before it was officially open.

“It fills a very high need for youth recreation up here,” assistant city manager Pete Butkus said.

It’s about the only thing filling that need, outside of school activities.

“You can go eat and you can come to the skatepark. That’s about it,” said Scott Sherman, a 16-year-old at Skyline High.

Sherman, who doesn’t yet have his driver’s license, sometimes goes to hear bands play at teen centers in Kirkland and Redmond. He’d love it if Sammamish had one of its own.

But plans for such a facility are tied to the controversial Town Center project, which is still years from being built. The city selected a concept for Town Center a year ago but it does not include a teen center. For that, the city is seeking a partnership with the YMCA.

And many don’t want to wait.

“The City Council likes to say, ‘We’re family friendly,’ but you need to move” on plans for youth recreation, said Pitt, president of the board of the Redmond/Sammamish Boys & Girls Club, which is located in Redmond.

More teens are on the way.

In the fall a third high school will open on 228th Avenue, the city’s main drag, adding to the after-school exodus that constitutes rush hour in this community of about 40,000. The Lake Washington School District also owns a potential school site, 15 acres in an area slated to become Town Center.

Demand for a Sammamish Boys & Girls Club is “huge,” said Jane Ronngren, executive director of the Redmond club. The club has been trying to secure a permanent home in the city for more than a decade, she said. Even those without teenage children recognize the need, she said. “Everybody wants it.”

Ronngren said the Boys & Girls Club wants to buy the existing Sammamish Library from the King County Library system, which is building a 19,500-square-foot library next to Sammamish City Hall.

She believes the old library could be a great space for a new club. At about 10,000 square feet, it has room to add a basketball court, and it’s across the street from the Safeway parking lot, “where kids are currently hanging out,” she said.

The library won’t be listed as surplus until next summer but it’s already attracted inquiries, said Gregory Smith, director of facilities management services for King County Library System.

“We have big interest in that property, which is good for us,” Smith said.

Amy Roe: 206-464-3347