The Y’s New Digs

To celebrate its new building, the Eugene Family YMCA is unleashing its new fitness class: shoveling. 

After years of fundraising and despite recent inflation ballooning construction costs, the Eugene YMCA is holding a groundbreaking ceremony 6 pm Thursday, June 16, for its new building on 24th and Hilyard. 

The new building has been a long journey of fundraising and construction at a time when materials are subject to supply chain shocks and inflation. But Eugene YMCA leaders say the new facility is on track for opening in December 2023 and will provide more services for the community than the 20th and Patterson location, as well as generate enough revenue to increase access for new members. 

Inflation and the supply chain has impacted several construction projects locally and globally, and the Eugene YMCA’s new building wasn’t immune. Cost for the new building had been increasing $400,000 a month since last year, Eugene YMCA Chief Development Officer Danielle Uhlhorn says. 

As of November 2021, the total price tag of the construction end of the project — including construction, land purchase and other costs — was at $42 million. But inflation grew the total cost to $47.6 million. But Uhlhorn says the Eugene YMCA inked a deal on May 5 with its general contractor to keep costs at $34 million, avoiding any further price increases. 

Eugene YMCA CEO Brian Steffen says the construction material increase came from a wide variety of areas. For example, he says, one component was a large open web joist, commonly found in gyms and pools, and there are only a few manufacturers in the U.S. Initially the Eugene YMCA budgeted to pay $800,000 for the materials, but over time the price for that material increased to $1.9 million. 

“You can’t get this far into a project with the building permit reviewed and say, ‘Well, I guess we don’t need the roof,’” he laughs. 

In designing services and the building, Steffen says the Eugene YMCA worked with consultant Grow Development, which he says has opened more than 400 YMCAs throughout the U.S. It also held listening sessions and conducted outreach to hear from the Eugene community, he says. “We have wanted this new facility to feel like a cutting edge, world-class YMCA that will be a flagship facility here in Eugene.” “The other component is that we wanted it to feel not like a Pacific Northwest YMCA but a YMCA that fits in with the culture and feel of Eugene.” 

To have a Eugene feel, Steffen says the organization discussed ways to have “touches of whimsy” and color in a way that captures the vibrancy of the community. 

With the building’s grand opening date aimed for December 2023, the Eugene Y’s $5 million community donation goal is nearly met. 

Uhlhorn says the Tykeson Family Foundation offered a $1 million match donation drive that is still ongoing. “We have about 1,200 donors to this project, ranging from the $5 donations to our largest gift from the state at $15 million,” she adds. “It’s been amazing to see the membership jump in and help, but half of our donors aren’t members.” 

Steffen says the Eugene YMCA will search state and federal funding sources to reduce the project’s debt, potentially all of it. “So that resources that the new Y generates can be invested into community services, into programs and areas where there is a high need to subsidize programs,” he says. “We also anticipate that the new YMCA will serve double the number of members that it currently serves.” 

The Eugene YMCA at its current location offers members about $450,000 in scholarship assistance annually, Steffen says. When it moves into its new location, he says he hopes to see nearly $1 million per year for financial assistance for programs such as child care and gym access. “That’s important for us,” he adds. “The new Y is truly for all.” 

Like other organizations during the pandemic, the Eugene YMCA is having trouble hiring workers, and it’ll need a few dozen more employees for the new facility, Steffen says. But the Eugene YMCA isn’t in a position where it can raise wages right away to attract applicants. Because the organization offers child care and gym memberships at affordable rates, he says even a slight one percent across-the-board wage increase could hit users who rely on its services. 

Architectural rendering of the Eugene Y’s new building.

Among its expanded services, the new YMCA has more space for child care, Steffen says. The building is planned to have a larger play care area, a youth learning lab and a teen space with esports and computer programming opportunities. 

The new building will also have a larger pool with six lanes (the current facility has four lanes), warm water therapy for those with joint pain or undergoing surgery recovery, an indoor track, three group rooms, a spin room, a large gathering room for classes — and more. 

When the new Eugene YMCA is finished, Steffen says it’ll be one of the most expensive YMCAs in the country. “The reality of having that built here in Eugene, Oregon, says so much about the 135-year history of the community seeing this impact here and the truly selfless philanthropic support of the people who’ve stepped forward to make sure it happens during a historically difficult time,” he says. 

The Eugene Y’s groundbreaking ceremony is 6 pm Thursday, June 23, at its new location on 24th and Hilyard.