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April 13: Upbeat Teen Center

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It’s a tale as old as time. The teenagers of Bismarck were bored. Besides watching movies or cruising Main Street, the kids wanted something fun to do after school and on the weekends. On this date in 1992, the front page of the Bismarck Tribune ran a story about an ambitious group of teens called Upbeat that wanted to do what no one else in Bismarck had managed to do: open a successful teen center.

Adults in Bismarck had been trying for decades to get a teen center going. A popular pool hall called the Teen Club opened in 1964, but it closed in 1969. In the summer of 1978, the Bismarck Park Board opened a teen center that had pinball machines, Foosball, pool table, jukebox, and concessions. However, it closed by December due to revenue loss, even though 25 to 30 teens visited every day. A teen center called the Top 10 opened in nearby Mandan, in 1985, but closed by 1987. According to a Bismarck teen, “no one from Bismarck went over there.” In late 1990 the Nite Scene teen center opened with video games, pool tables, and dancing. It closed nine months later.

The teen group Upbeat was willing to try again. Unlike the previous centers, theirs would be run by teens. Teenager Micah Shea and her mom Kathy came up with the idea in early 1990 and started Upbeat. Upbeat began fundraising to buy a building by sponsoring teen dances at Shades, a popular night club.

By the time of the 1992 Bismarck Tribune story about Upbeat, the group had raised $11,000. June the following year the group purchased a 14,000 square foot building on East Broadway. Upbeat opened the Detour Teen Center in March 1994. It boasted a giant dance floor, video games, pool tables, TVs, and a concession stand. Support groups and after school programs also used the space. The center was popular, attracting about 4,000 teens a month. However, money soon became an issue. The cost of the building and renovations was large, and conflicts rose between Upbeat’s board of directors and the teen center staff. The dream of a teen center run by teens died in February 1996 when the Detour Teen Center closed.

Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa


  • Author Unknown. “Dance at Shades Will Benefit Teen Center.” The Bismarck Tribune, September 17, 1990.
  • Author Unknown. “Teen Center Closed after Use Drops Off.” The Bismarck Tribune, December 15, 1978, pg. 30.
  • Author Unknown. “Teen Center Enjoying Steady Use Since Start.” The Bismarck Tribune, July 26, 1978, pg. 7.
  • Author Unknown. “Teen Club to Open in Bismarck.” Mandan Pioneer, July 15, 1964, pg. 2.
  • Deutscher, Hope. “Teens Pack Bar for Dance.” The Bismarck Tribune, December 31, 1990, pg. 11B.
  • Herron, Stacy. “High School Kids Sound off on Entertainment, Traffic, You-Name-It.” The Bismarck Tribune, December 28, 1987, pg. 6A.
  • Spiegel, Sue. “Teens Hang Out at Movies While Clubs Die.” The Bismarck Tribune, January 7, 1969, pg. 6.
  • Stelter, Stan. “Mandan Youth Center to Open in November. The Bismarck Tribune, September 29, 1985, pg. 4B.
  • Sweeney, Kathleen. “Road Rough for Detour Club.” The Bismarck Tribune, February 17, 1995, pgs. 1, 12.
  • Swift, Tammy. “Teens Sketch Blueprint to Battle Boredom.” The Bismarck Tribune, April 13, 1992, pgs. 1, 10.
  • Swift, Tammy. “Upbeat Opens Teen Club.” The Bismarck Tribune, March 17, 1994, pg. B1.
  • Swift, Tammy. “Upbeat Scores in 3rd Attempt.” The Bismarck Tribune, June 18, 1993, pg. B1.
  • Voskuil, Vicki. “No ‘In’ Crowd Spells Doom for Teen Club.” The Bismarck Tribune, August 6, 1991, pg. 1.
  • Voskuil, Vicki. “Upbeat’s Youth Activities Wait Until All Old Bills are Paid Off.” The Bismarck Tribune, June 28, 1996, pg. 1.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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