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YMCA celebrates new digs with grand opening bash

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By Amanda Eggert EBS Senior Editor

After more than a decade of making do with rented spaces throughout the greater Bozeman area, Gallatin Valley YMCA has a space all its own.

On Saturday, Sept. 16, Gallatin Valley YMCA is inviting the community to join them as they celebrate that fact with a shindig 1-5 p.m. at their new building on Love Lane west of Bozeman.

Activities slated for the event include a magic show, a bouncy house, a climbing wall, a jousting arena, a petting zoo, face painting, food trucks, and appearances by Montana State University’s football team and MSU mascot Champ.

“We have everything but circus elephants,” said YMCA CEO Andrea Stevenson, adding that she expects between 500 and 1,000 people to partake in the festivities. “It’s a very family-centered event.”

The grand opening marks the culmination of a multi-year fundraising effort to bring the 22,000-square-foot, $6 million facility to fruition. The building, which has been in use since Aug. 7, includes a fitness studio, dedicated spaces for cardio and strength training, two youth program rooms, and a child care area for parents to drop off their children while they work out.

Gallatin Valley YMCA Board of Directors member Robert Donaghey said he’s particularly proud of the weight and fitness facility, as well as the program room, which is set up with Wi-Fi and computers.

“[As] a college athlete, I’ve been in a lot of weight facilities and training facilities. The equipment that’s in that facility is second to none,” Donaghey said. Some of the exercise machines even have Bluetooth connectivity to keep users on pace to meet their fitness goals. “It’s top-of-the-line stuff,” he said.

New offerings accommodated by the space include an after-school program, Saturday family activities, and classes for seniors. “We are seeing a lot of active seniors walk in and participate in the health and fitness component of the Y, which is great,“ said CEO Andrea Stevenson.

Donaghey’s also excited that community members—in Bozeman, Belgrade, Four Corners, Gallatin Gateway and even Big Sky—have somewhere to go, “no matter who you are, what age you are, or what color you are.

“It’s a safe place to go do the things that keep you healthy and keep you safe,” he said. “It’s a big deal.”

Stevenson said the new space has allowed them to expand their programming by approximately 40 percent, but they’ll continue to partner with other organizations in the valley, i.e., schools and churches, to accommodate the approximately 7,100 people they serve per year.

In addition to exercise facilities, fitness classes, and kids’ programs, camps and sports, the Gallatin Valley YMCA has plenty of adult and senior programming like ballroom dancing, winter sports conditioning and knitting classes.

Future plans include two additional phases, which call for the construction of a pool and a gymnasium with a walking track. The price tag for all three phases tops $15 million, which will take considerable community support.

“I think one of the common misconceptions is that because YMCA is part of a national organization, we just snap our fingers and Y-USA comes in and provides the funding,” Stevenson said. “We had to knock on doors … it’s a lot of work to raise money.”

She hopes that individuals and businesses alike will recognize the value YMCA adds to the valley. “The YMCA really has many purposes, whether you’re an individual or whether you’re a business trying to attract more people to come here to live,” Stevenson said.

She said she’s proud of the fact that the YMCA serves everyone, including individuals and families that are in a tough spot financially. “The Y will never turn anyone away because they can’t pay full price for a program or for membership,” she said.

The new building was designed to accommodate future additions as the organization’s needs grow alongside Gallatin County’s increasing population.

But for now, Stevenson is happy to take in the view from the YMCA’s new lobby, an open space full of windows. “People walk into our building and they’re immediately struck by the community feel [and] the awesome view,” she said. “I think we have the best view in the valley.”

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Joseph T. O'Connor is the previous Editor-in-Chief for EBS newspaper and Mountain Outlaw magazine.

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