The Hangout NOLA Opens on Eastbank As Social Hub and Activity Center for Local Teens

The Hangout NOLA giant connect four game
Photo Source: The Hangout NOLA

The Hangout NOLA, a new activity center at 9954 Lake Forest Blvd. provides fun and games for kids and teens ages 10 to 17. Owner Ray Bender hopes that The Hangout will become a social hub where young people can have a good time and socialize.

Bender is a father and husband born and raised in the Lower 9th Ward and for eight years, he and his family have called New Orleans East home. He said he wanted to build his home in the East because he thought it would be a good place to raise a family.

“We believe in what the East means to the city, despite a lot of the negative images and stories that come out about it,” he said. “We really felt like it was a place where we wanted to build. Our kids go to school here and it’s a place that’s important to us.”

The idea for The Hangout started as a conversation between Bender and his wife, Yolan. The couple recognized that young people are in a position where they could be misguided or go down the wrong path. 

He said, “My wife knows how much of a heart I have towards young people and we thought that we should figure out what we could do to be advocates for the youth. The idea of a youth center came to us and we believe that God opened the door to allow us to do this.”

Bender is no stranger to working with kids. He operates a non-profit where he teaches sixth to twelfth graders how to create film projects. He sees this as another opportunity to help kids and teens find their way.

When kids go to The Hangout, first and foremost, they can expect to have fun. Bender wanted to create a spot where kids could go and relax while they had a good time making new friends.

He explained, “The environment we have here is different in that it’s a hybrid space. It isn’t an arcade, but we have games that kids can play. We have Xboxes and PlayStations so that kids can play games that they have at home with other teens and on a larger scale.”

The Hangout NOLA airhockey table
Photo Source: The Hangout NOLA

The Hangout also has table games such as billiards, foosball, and air hockey, as well as oversized games like Connect Four and Jenga.

It was important for Bender to offer the space to kids between 10 and 17 because he said that’s when the most significant gap is when they are looking for something to do. The age that is not quite little kids and not quite adults where social activities in the community are lacking.

The age groups are separated and allowed access to the space at different times. Kids 10 to 13 will be welcome Monday through Thursday, 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and teens 14 to 17 will enjoy the space from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on the same days. The cost is $10 per visit.

Other special events are being planned for the future, such as comedy nights, karaoke, and poetry readings, and the venue can be booked on the weekend for private events.

The Hangout NOLA giant Jenga
Photo Source: The Hangout NOLA

While parents are welcome, parental supervision is not required at The Hangout. However, Bender said that, as a parent himself, he understands that some parents will want to stay and ensure their child is safe.

“We have a space where parents can sit and watch their child play,” he said. “I understand that it’s a new business with people and kids you don’t know, so some may hesitate to just drop their kids off.”

The Hangout NOLA just held its grand opening, and Bender said that he could already tell it’s going to be a place that kids will enjoy. 

“Witnessing the smiles on the kids’ faces was amazing,” he said. “Seeing how much they enjoyed themselves was really great.”

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