1SQ: The Midway YMCA

Midway YMCA sometime in the 1940\'s
Original YMCA Building

Just down the street from Habitat, at 1761 University Ave., the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities (The Y) has settled into its new home. The Y’s current building opened in 2016, built on the site of its previous location that was built in 1951. The Young Men Christian’s Association has been on the Avenue since the turn of the 20th century. Its first location in the Midway was built in 1907 and sat where Menards is today, at the intersection of University and Prior Avenues. In those days, The Y was a place for railroad workers to stay and worship. The old location was aptly named the “Minnesota Transfer YMCA,” after the Minnesota Transfer Railroad.

The YMCA’s current building received $5 million through the NMTC program. The spot has a number of updated amenities, including a bigger aquatic center, an instructional kitchen for culinary courses and a new area for kids to play while their parents are working out.

“Our core impact is youth development, healthy living and social responsibility” said Midway YMCA Executive Director David Dominick.

“Last year we provided 300 free memberships to youth in the neighborhood so they could be active, be off the streets and be in a positive environment.”

The YMCA has had global impact since the association got its start in the 19th century. James Naismith, who invented the game of basketball, was a YMCA employee. Volleyball is said to have been an invention spawned at the YMCA, too. At its core, the YMCA has looked to provide healthy activities that promoted camaraderie and fellowship.

Boys at the St. Paul Midway YMCA, early 1900\'s
Boys posed in front of Midway Young Men's Christian Association, St. Paul

The YMCA served 17,599 clients at the end of 2018, and provided $868,049 in financial assistance to its membership base. It provides more than 250 jobs in the Midway neighborhood, and has focused on putting low-income residents to work, ensuring that at least 90 percent of new employees are not required to have credentials beyond a high school diploma or GED.

According to Dominick, the Twin Cities YMCA is one of the largest in the country, with roughly $180 million in assets. He wants people to know the organization is more than just a “swim and gym.”

The YMCA works with a number of local organizations, including the Rotary and Lions club, as well as the chamber of commerce and Episcopal Homes to provide services to the community. The organization’s community engagement is what has kept it alive over the past two centuries, said Dominick.

“I think all those programs really keep us relevant,” he said. “(The YMCA) is more than just a workout place.”

Read about the other organizations and their impact, by clicking the links below: