Eau Claire YMCA closes after 30 years

Vacant Venue: People skateboard past the now closed Eau Claire YMCA in Calgary on Sunday, March 7, 2021. The non-profit community facility ran strong for over 30 years.(Photo by Danika J. Gayle/The Press)

Calgarians say goodbye to the downtown YMCA, which closed permanently yesterday after attempts were made to save the location.

On Feb. 18, 2021 the Gray Family Eau Claire YMCA located on 101 3 Street SW shut its doors for good.

On top of the added pressure due to COVID-19, the support and funding to keep the sports arena open were not present.

Ken Lima-Coelho, vice president, community engagement for YMCA Calgary, said this decision was a recommendation based on the senior leadership team, based highly on a decline in memberships.

At the highest point, the Gray Family Eau Claire YMCA had upwards of 10,000 members. When deciding to close, it had only slightly over 1,000 members.

With the downtown location only serving six per cent of the total YMCA members, Lima-Coelho said, it was a tough situation.

“Downtown has fewer people than it’s ever had, there’s large vacancies 25 per cent vacancy in downtown,” said Lima-Coelho.

Other factors played a role as well such as the retro fitting of the venue to match what other facilities were offering.

“We needed about a million dollars a year for the next 10 years just to keep the building status quo,” said Lima-Coelho.

Unique Community: Julia Dotin, remembers what made the Eau Claire YMCA stand apart from the rest. Dotin worked at the non-profit facility for two years. (Photo by Danika J. Gayle/The Press)

The decision to close will have an impact on the surrounding community with many being lifetime members for over 30 years.

“It has a lot of memory with me, and it’s kind of sad that it’s closing, so it’s kind of like something, you know, nostalgic is gone,” said Allan Rojas, patron since childhood.

“In honour of the positive impact it has had on so many lives, we will make every possible effort to minimize the effects of this process on our staff and the communities who enjoy the facility.”

Julia Dotin, a member services, front desk employee of two years said she thinks one of the unique things about it in many ways was the clientele.

“We had a lot of seniors that had been going there for 30 years that would come by day to day, so I think it was really just a kind of staple of the community,” – Julia Dotin.

Patricia White, chair, YMCA Calgary Board of Directors, also spoke about the closure.

“In honour of the positive impact it has had on so many lives, we will make every possible effort to minimize the effects of this process on our staff and the communities who enjoy the facility,” she said.