Calgary’s Eau Claire YMCA to permanently close

The Gray Family Eau Claire YMCA in Calgary, pictured on Feb. 18, 2021. Global News

After more than 30 years in operation, a downtown Calgary recreational facility will be shutting down permanently.

On Thursday afternoon, YMCA Calgary announced it will be closing its Eau Claire location.

In a letter to members, the YMCA said the Eau Claire location “has been seeing rising costs, a diminishing membership base, extensive capital requirements and challenges in the downtown environment.”

The coronavirus pandemic has “heightened” the impacts, the YMCA said.

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The Eau Claire YMCA will not resume its operations when public health restrictions allow for broader reopening of gyms. Child care will remain open until April 30.

“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,” Patricia White, chair of the YMCA Calgary board of directors, said in a statement.

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Ward 8 Coun. Evan Woolley said he was disappointed and “really frustrated” with the news of the YMCA facility closing, given the threat to the Beltline pool and the City of Calgary’s priority of revitalizing downtown.

“The Y, to have moved through the process like this without understanding or appreciating or engaging on the interconnected nature of all of these important pieces of the downtown, is unacceptable,” Woolley told Global News.

Click to play video: 'YMCA pleads with some problem members to stop disrespecting staff' YMCA pleads with some problem members to stop disrespecting staff
YMCA pleads with some problem members to stop disrespecting staff – Nov 11, 2020

“We’re seeing crumbling infrastructure in the downtown in terms of the public investments and, given the critical nature and critical importance of our downtown for our corporation and our administration, to have let this happen and to have surprised us in this nature is deeply disappointing and unacceptable.”

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Woolley said it leaves a dearth of facilities and recreation programming for the 55,000 centre city residents.

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Aging city rec facilities in Inglewood and the Beltline were under threat because of their age, condition and lack of patronage. But in November 2019, city council voted to keep those pools open for two more years.

In a statement to Global News, the City of Calgary said it continues to work to understand the social and recreational needs of the Beltline and Inglewood communities through consultations.

“Recommendations on how to meet those needs, as well as recommendations on the future use of the Beltline and Inglewood facilities, will be presented to council on May 31,” the statement reads.

The Beltline and Inglewood aquatic and fitness centres have been closed due to COVID-19.

“The downtown Eau Claire Y was an incredibly important community asset,” Woolley said.

YMCA Calgary committed to transparency for its members through the process of closing.

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“As we transition from service-delivery at the Gray Family Eau Claire YMCA, we are excited to explore how we will continue to meet the evolving needs of Calgarians so that we will be here, creating impact, long after the pandemic is over,“ president and CEO Shannon Doram said in a statement.

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