If your childhood rec leagues were anything like Cassie Rood’s, you probably have a very distinct picture of the YMCA in your head: misshapen, grip-less basketballs, folding chairs for spectators that almost touched the sideline, and courts that may or may not have all the lines. “I’m from North Dakota,” says Rood, the vice president of healthy living for YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities. “That’s exactly how it was. But this is not that.”

The Douglas Dayton YMCA—the new downtown Minneapolis club, opened Friday at Gaviidae Common after a year and a half of construction. It ushers in a new era for the Y, in size, technology, and sheer volume of gleaming equipment. Located on the top five floors of Gaviidae, including a rooftop studio and seating area, the 105,000 square-foot facility is the largest of the 27 Twin Cities Y’s and is by far the most unique in Minnesota—maybe even the country. Take Mayor Jacob Frey’s word for it.

“This project pairs beautifully with so much of the work we’re doing and trying to do for the broader community,” Frey says. “We talk about equity and inclusion work at the city and, well, you’ve got an equity and inclusion center here that’s open to everyone. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone, whether that’s nonprofits or businesses or community-minded organizations or just a kid off the street.”

That Equity Innovation Center he’s talking about is the first in any YMCA. Designed with the nonprofit’s mission in mind, leaders hope the center will serve as a gathering space for community building. Corporate offices can participate in social responsibility seminars or go through leadership training, then put their knowledge into practice in the simulation room. A primary goal in creating this Y was to dedicate as much time and space to strengthening core values as to improving the body.

Of course, there’s a little of that, too. For fitness traditionalists, treadmills, ellipticals, and bench presses line the balconies that overlook the Gaviidae skyways. Members also have access to a turf-laden free weight area, a four-lane, 25-yard pool, and all the medicine balls they can carry. The crown jewel of the fourth floor, however, is her royal highness, the Queenax. What’s essentially a jungle gym for grownups (no really, there are monkey bars) offers functional training with the help of suspended bars and rings. Gaviidae’s unit is the largest in the Minnesota.

The downtown Y also features dedicated spaces for dance, cycle, hot yoga, Pilates, and meditation. 

Technically, the Gaviidae team met its goal of cutting the ribbon at the new digs before kickoff of Super Bowl LII, but several spaces are still under construction. The pool will be accessible the first week in February, and the George Wellness Center—a first-of-its-kind space dedicated to holistic healing practices—will open this summer.

But a little construction tape hasn’t stopped members from pouring in. Despite the shiny new equipment and space, membership fees did not go up—it's still $69 per month. The downtown YMCA, formerly located on Ninth Street, has 3,100 members, a count that’s expected to soar upward of 5,000 in the next few years.

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