Former Tri-Cities Christian School to be renovated, turned into teen center

Former Tri-Cities Christian School to be renovated, turned into teen center

BRISTOL, Tenn. - The old Tri-Cities Christian School in Bristol has been empty for a couple of years, becoming an eye sore and attracting vandals.  A Christian club based in Bristol wants to change that and plans to transform the building into a teen center.

The club, called The Refinery, will lease the old school for the next few months as they get ready to buy it for $390,000.

Club founder Reford Eller told us he has one mission for his Christian teen group.

"We try to offer high school students and college students a safe place to come hang out," he said. "No drugs, no cigarettes, none of that."

This is the first time they'll have their own space, right now the club meets once a week at Bristol's YMCA. Eller told us they're ready to start this new chapter.

"There will be rooms available for Christian music, there will be rooms available to just hang out, there will also be rooms available for churches to come in and do small groups," he said.

Eller told us they plan to give the teenagers music lessons. The music program has already booked five instructors, including one from Atlanta who worked on a Grammy Award-winning album, according to Eller.

They'll also have a cafe, martial arts classes and a day-care.

Eller said they'll need about 15 employees and 25-50 volunteers to operate the facility.

He told us they tried to buy the building last year but they couldn't afford it. Eller said they'll use the money they make at the day-care to pay for some of the costs.  Another portion of the expenses will be covered by rent from a local gym, Unchained Gymnastics, Fitness and Dance.

"We looked at it and couldn't really afford the building and we didn't need all of the space and they were in the same situation," said Eller.

The gym's co-owners Jay and Allison Hilburn told us they can't wait to start using the space, which features ceilings that are twice as high as the ones at their current location on Commonwealth Avenue. The Hilburns said it's a feature that's necessary to train higher level athletes.

"We have mostly younger athletes right now but even if they're just a little bit taller, they're going to start kicking the ceiling once they get to the upper level skills we've laid the foundation for," said Allison Hilburn.

They told us the new facilities aren't the only part of the move they're looking forward to.

"On Broad Street the speed limit is low, there's parking and it's quieter around there," said Jay Hilburn.

He told us the move should help bring in new students to expand their gym. We're told they'll start moving-in their equipment on Saturday and expect to be open in the new facility on Monday.

The rest of the teen center should be open in the next two months, according to Eller.

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