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From left, center: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, Boulder Chamber Senior Director of Policy Programs Jonathan Singer and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Lafayette, celebrate after cutting the ribbon during a celebration for the renovated Boulder YMCA on June 1. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

For 150 years, the Boulder YMCA has provided the city with a place where everyone can get active, learn new skills and build a stronger community.

“It’s a big challenge,” said Chris Coker, CEO of the YMCAs of Northern Colorado, at the Boulder Y’s 150th anniversary this year. “It’s a mission to serve the community.”

Founded in 1874—two years before Colorado became a state—the Boulder Y was founded by miners who met to sing hymns and study the Bible. The Y then found a home in the old main building of the University of Colorado Boulder before moving to its current location at 2850 Mapleton Ave. in 1966.

“It just grew from there,” Coker said. “And now we’re on the road from here to Wyoming.”

CEO of the YMCAs of Northern Colorado Dr. Chris Coker speaks during a celebration for the renovated Boulder YMCA on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
CEO of the YMCAs of Northern Colorado Dr. Chris Coker speaks during a celebration for the renovated Boulder YMCA on June 1. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

The YMCAs of Northern Colorado are located in Boulder, Lafayette, Longmont, Johnstown, Loveland and Cheyenne. Last year, the YMCA group added 2,000 new members, including family and individual memberships.

On June 1, the Boulder Y celebrated its grand reopening after about nine months of renovations. Several hundred people attended the reopening ceremony, including Colorado Governor Jared Polis and U.S. Representative Joe Neguse, a Democrat from Lafayette.

The reopening featured several new facilities at the Boulder Y, most notably the child care program. Closets, offices and parts of the locker rooms were converted into six classrooms for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. A new playground was also built on a formerly empty field.

“We’re a child care desert here,” said Jen Spettel, vice president of branch operations for the YMCAs of Northern Colorado. “And that’s why this was such a big deal.”

Other renovations focused on expanding the facility’s fitness facilities. A racquetball court was converted into a gym for Zumba and SilverSneakers classes and one of the weight rooms was expanded to make room for new equipment.

“I love the hustle and bustle, I love the people in the building,” Spettel said. “Now that the renovation is complete, there is a new energy.”

An expanded outdoor patio area is seen during a celebration for the renovated Boulder YMCA on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
An expanded outdoor patio area is seen during a celebration for the renovation of the Boulder YMCA. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

The indoor pool, which was recently retiled, is used for “intergenerational swimming lessons.” Seniors stay after their water aerobics classes to teach younger swimmers.

“If you don’t have all the members in the building, from the young children to the active older adults, it’s not a YMCA,” Coker said. “That’s what makes a YMCA community.”

In emergency situations, from fires to floods, the Boulder Y is the community’s “first stop,” Coker said. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Y opened for emergency child care less than a week after citywide closures began.

“We were here every day for the firefighters and the doctors,” Coker said. “We estimated that seven thousand children came through.”

Coker called the Y an equal opportunity organization, which he believes is always needed in addition to the city’s recreation centers. From CU Boulder students to working families, Coker explained that membership dues go directly to the Y’s programs and services.

“When you join the Y, you become part of the community,” he said.

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