A Calgary councillor is hoping city council can help save the Gray Family Eau Claire YMCA in downtown Calgary.
The facility recently announced that after 30 years in operation it would be closing permanently due to rising costs, a diminishing membership base, extensive capital requirements and challenges in the downtown environment.
Farkas is preparing an urgent notice of motion, to be heard at the March 1 council meeting, that calls for talks with the YMCA to save the rec facility.
“It comes as a wake-up call to city council and a body blow to every single Calgarian who lives and works in the downtown,” Farkas said at a news conference in front of Eau Claire YMCA Wednesday.
Farkas’ motion puts a number of options on the table to save the facility, including profit sharing, parking fee relaxations and joint operations.
Five other YMCA locations in Calgary currently have partnerships with the city, including Crowfoot Rocky Ridge, Seton, Quarry Park, Shawnessy and Saddletowne.
The Gray Family Eau Claire YMCA is owned and operated solely by YMCA Calgary.
“This isn’t just about a building. This is about our community, our economic success, and the future of downtown,” Farkas said.
“Council must not allow this downtown death spiral to continue.”
In a statement sent to Global News via email, YMCA Calgary said it was continuing to have conversations with its partners at the City of Calgary in regards to the closure of the Gray Family Eau Claire YMCA.
“This is in the spirit of continuing dialogue with the city started before the closure.”
Ward 6 Coun. Jeff Davison agrees that a solution needs to be found to address the situation downtown but said a fix will require the city to pull several levers over many years.
Davison acknowledged talks are ongoing with the YMCA about the closure. He added that the city should be using its regulatory framework to attract more development downtown rather than invest in a privately owned facility.
“Where the city does have a stake in the game is looking at how we provide the right regulatory environment to ensure that we can complete high-rise residential development in the core,” Davison said.
“We have to really understand the types of development coming into the core before we can understand the additional amenities that we may need in place. Because you can’t really put the cart before the horse in something like this.”
Farkas’ proposal has received criticism, with some people pointing to his past voting record in opposition of Calgary’s Downtown Strategy and other projects aimed at revitalizing the downtown core.
“It seems a little bit opportunistic of that councillor and candidate for mayor to be talking about the death spiral of the downtown that he is helping cement by voting against the Green Line, voting against economic development opportunity funds, the arts (and) safe infrastructure for the communities down here,” Beltline Neighbourhoods Association president Peter Oliver said.
Oliver said the downtown core needs commitment from city council to build new amenities and infrastructure, similar to its partnerships with YMCA to build new facilities in Rocky Ridge and Seton.
According to Oliver, newer facilities will be a key driver to attract younger generations to live downtown.
“The city really needs to now plow forward with plans for investing in modern recreation facilities,” Oliver said.
“It will come down to quality of living and the vibrancy of the downtown that decide whether or not this is a city that the next generation chooses to make their home or whether they go somewhere else.”