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Paving the Way: A New Direction

A Rich History & A Sustainable Future

In a continued effort to address longstanding inequities and pave the way to a brighter future for all, YWCA Minneapolis is restructuring the organization to further disrupt the systemic issues plaguing children and their families. Specifically, YWCA Minneapolis is resetting program priorities and redeploying capital and resources toward higher-impact programming, including Early Childhood Education, Girls and Youth, and Racial Justice and Public Policy programs, as well as reimagining our YWCA Midtown location as a community cultural hub and consolidating our fitness offerings to that location.

As YWCA Minneapolis embraces this new chapter, the Board of Directors and Senior Leadership Team have made the difficult decision to close fitness, gym and pool operations at the Uptown and Downtown locations effective November 1, 2023. YWCA Minneapolis will pursue the sale of these buildings, as well as seek an alternative downtown or downtown adjacent location for current families of our YWCA Downtown Children’s Center.

Read the Aug. 16 message

Read the Aug. 3 message

Frequently Asked Questions

Our New Strategic Vision

What changes are happening with YWCA Minneapolis?

To respond to the changing needs in our community and further address the longstanding inequities plaguing children, youth and their families, YWCA Minneapolis is resetting program priorities and redeploying capital and resources to those areas in which we are needed the most.

  • We will continue to operate and invest in our Early Childhood Education, Girls and Youth and Racial Justice programs
  • We will reimagine our Midtown location as a community cultural hub and consolidate our fitness operations to that location
  • We have made the difficult decision to close our fitness, gym and pool operations at our Uptown and Downtown locations effective November 1 and consolidate our fitness operations into our Midtown location. We will pursue the sale of the Uptown and Downtown buildings
  • As a result of that decision, we discontinued our Otters and Masters swim programs, which offered fitness and competitive training for youth and adult swimmers,effective August 1 to align with the natural break in their swim season
  • We will relocate our downtown Early Childhood Education Center to a downtown or downtown-adjacent location

Since 1891, YWCA Minneapolis has worked to meet the changing needs of our community. While our priorities are once again shifting, our mission to eliminate racism and empower women and their families remains the same.

What are the reasons behind this shift in focus?

While our fitness program is well-known, the fact is that it represents only 20% of our overall programming.  Financially, it accounts for 25% of our revenue, but 35% of our expenses, impacting our ability to serve the community where it is most needed. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the fitness landscape and worsened existing disparities in our community. We are seeing long-term consequences, especially for children, youth and families. Youth are experiencing significant declines in educational outcomes, mental health and access to vital resources, including teachers and mentors.

Three key facts illustrate the disparities we are seeing in our community:

While most students are falling behind academically, students of color, as well as students from low-income households, are seeing a much more drastic decline than their peers.

  • In 2022, only 31.5% of children were proficient or better in math and just 29.7% were proficient or better in reading.
  • Almost 40% of students have reported negative impacts on their mental health because of COVID-19 and rates of attempted suicide have increased, especially among girls
  • 89% of Minnesota schools reported being significantly impacted by teacher shortages in 2022

Who was involved in the decision to shift strategic focus and why were members and program participants not included?

The decision to shift strategic priorities was made by the YWCA Minneapolis Board of Directors and the Senior Leadership team. As part of our six-month strategic planning process, we analyzed the greatest community needs, and then examined the outcomes and impact of our various programs to assess where we are making the greatest impact, and where additional investment could help us deepen that impact. One of the biggest challenges has been that many people do not know what we do apart from fitness. In addition to three fitness centers and the swim programs, we have five Early Childhood Education Centers, six Girls and Youth programs and five Racial Justice programs. Something had to give. Feedback from members and program participants was considered as part of our analysis. In fact, findings from a survey among current and former fitness members provided additional insights on why members joined, why they stay, what we could do better, why they left, what would make them come back and more. We also annually survey our program participants as part of our grant reporting.

How will this shift impact your mission and programs?

Our mission to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all remains the same. We will continue to operate and invest in our Early Childhood Education centers in Minneapolis and St. Paul, our Girls and Youth, our Racial Justice and Public Policy programs. We will also reimagine our Midtown location as a community cultural hub and consolidate Health and Wellness programs to this location. Given reduced pool capacity because of the closures of Uptown and Downtown fitness operations, we made the difficult decision to discontinue our Otters and Masters programs effective August 1.

Will this change in focus have an impact on staff?

With the closure of our fitness, gym and pool operations at the Uptown and Downtown facilities, we will need to end the employment of 12 full-time and 40 part-time employees who serve in our fitness and maintenance departments. Members of the Board of Directors and Senior Leadership Team will provide transition assistance for these employees.

What are the plans for the Uptown and Downtown buildings and how will it affect programs housed in those facilities?

  • We will close the fitness, gym and pool operations at our Uptown and Downtown locations, effective November 1 and pursue the sale of these buildings
  • We closed our Otters and Masters swim programs effective August 1 to align with the natural break in their swim season
  • We are seeking an alternative location, within a 3-mile radius, for our Downtown Early Childhood Education Center. In the interim, the Center will remain in the Downtown building
  • YWCA staff with offices in the Downtown location will continue to operate out of this location for the time being

Will there be any disruptions in programming or services in the Early Childhood Education program in Downtown?

We remain committed to operating our Downtown Early Childhood Education program and providing a seamless experience for our families throughout this transition. The Downtown front desk and maintenance will continue to be staffed. As some of you know, our downtown elevator is being repaired, and we expect to have it operating soon. ECE directors will reach out to families to answer any questions and provide updates. You can also reach us at, and we will follow up with you.

Isn’t closing the aquatics and fitness programs against your mission and deepening disparities in the community, since there are few options for children from communities of color to learn to swim and for low-income families to access fitness programs?

We will continue to provide water safety, swimming and fitness programs for children and families of color, as well as access to fitness programs for families from low-income households at our Midtown Hub. Our Early Childhood Education families receive free fitness memberships and swimming lessons are provided for all children in our Early Childhood Education program. Fitness member scholarships are also available for those children and adults who qualify.

Our Swim for Change program includes access to swim lessons, lifeguard training and swim team participation for 300+ participants each year, of which more than 80% live in low-income households and nearly 90% are youth of color.  Donations to our Stacey Danner Memorial Fund support the Swim for Change program.

The Minneapolis community is fortunate enough to have one of the best park systems in the country, including two water parks, pools and an indoor aquatics center.

Aren’t you going against your mission by discriminating against certain groups, including the elderly, the “privileged” and others seeking health and wellness with a nonprofit, community-focused organization?

We will continue to offer fitness and aquatics programming at our Midtown location for children, youth, adults and seniors, and welcome those who support our mission to continue their membership at our Midtown location.

While we know that the Uptown and Downtown fitness, gym and pool facilities have played an important role in the lives of many families in our community, they did not yield the same community impact as other programs, and operating three fitness locations was becoming financially unsustainable.

What are the plans for the Midtown location?

We are reimagining our Midtown location as a community and cultural hub; a space where youth, women and their families, and seniors can connect to our programs and services, and the resources they need. We are consolidating our Health and Wellness offerings to this location and will continue to operate Early Childhood Education and Girls and Youth programming at the Midtown location. We will invest in our Midtown location and programs, seeking community input as we progress.

What is the timeline for these changes?

Our Uptown and Downtown fitness, gym and pool operations will close effective November 1.

  • Our Early Childhood Education program will continue to operate out of the Downtown location until we transition to a new location
  • YWCA’s Otters and Masters swim programs ended August 1 to align with the natural break in their swim season. This timing also allows families to register with other clubs during August registration, and our coaching staff to pursue new opportunities

What can I do to support YWCA Minneapolis as it pursues this new strategic focus?

As we embrace this new chapter, we are asking the community to invest in our new path forward in supporting children, youth and their families. We are fortunate to have already received positive responses from many of our long-time donors who believe in our new vision. Donations of any size can make an immediate difference for those we already serve and expand access and opportunity through our vital programs. Together, we can pave the way to a better future for all members of our community! Visit

Health and Wellness

Will the Uptown and Downtown buildings be purchased by another gym organization?

We are just beginning to pursue the sale of the buildings. We will carefully consider all proposals. The Downtown and Uptown fitness operations will remain accessible to all members until November 1. We invite members who primarily use our Uptown and Downtown facilities to check out our Midtown location if you haven’t already, and to continue your membership with us.

Will the Midtown fitness area and classes be expanded?

As we work to consolidate our fitness offerings at the Midtown location, we will consider several factors, including space, pool capacity, demand for equipment, onsite and virtual classes and services, and operating hours. We will elicit member feedback, evaluate opportunities and adjust to best meet our members’ needs.

Do I need to cancel my membership if I primarily use the Uptown or Downtown location? When will automatic fitness payment end?

We welcome you to continue your membership at our Midtown location. Automatic fitness payments will end based on contract cancelation policies.

  • If you need to cancel your month-to-month memberships, we will waive the 1-month notice required
  • If you need to cancel your 12-month self-renewing membership, you can do so prior to the end of your contract
  • If you want to add or drop members on your account, we will waive the plan change fee

Find membership forms here if you need to make any changes or email with any questions.

Have fitness memberships declined in the past few years? And if so, what has been the decline?

The fitness landscape has changed significantly across the country. YWCA memberships have been on a steep decline over the past few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, increased competition from for-profit fitness firms and the development of new apartment buildings offering robust fitness options.  In 2019, we had over 7,000 memberships; and currently have about 3,000 memberships—a decline of 59%.

Will you be selling any of the Uptown or Downtown gym equipment?

We are in discussion with vendors to purchase our entire Uptown and Downtown inventory.

What was the reason behind the timing of the announcement to end the Otters and Masters programs?

Under advisement from our Aquatics leadership, we wanted to take advantage of the natural break in the Otters swim season and ensure the team members had the opportunity to register for other clubs during the August registration season. We also wanted to give our coaching staff ample time to pursue opportunities with other teams during the seasonal break.

Did YWCA pursue other options to continue the swim teams?

The Minneapolis School Board has received information from Minneapolis Community Education regarding the initiation of a new swim-team program to be integrated into lesson programming and enrollment at Minneapolis Southwest High School. The new program is being formed as a new USA Swimming member club owned and operated by Minneapolis Community Education, with a supporting booster club led by parents and partners to support operations and scholarship. The program will have a long-term home at Southwest High School beginning in November, and YWCA Minneapolis is in discussions with the new program for its use of the Uptown facility during the months of September and October.

What other options are available for those who wish to continue in the sport?

Our coaching staff is working with swimmers to help connect them with other programs.

There are options available through The Minneapolis Park Board, including a Jr. Swim Club offered at the Phillips Aquatic Center. Additionally, Minnesota Swimming, a local nonprofit affiliated with USA Swimming, provides a good list of local swim clubs and programs for all ages.

If you have additional questions, please contact, and we can direct your question to the appropriate staff member or resource.

What is YWCA’s relationship with the Minneapolis Sports Center?

Minneapolis Public Schools (MSP) received a grant to erect the Minneapolis Sports Center (MSC) contingent upon the construction of an adjacent facility by us/our Midtown YWCA. YWCA Minneapolis is responsible for operating costs and maintains both facilities. While MPS owns the parking lot, YWCA Minneapolis is responsible for maintenance of the parking lot and surrounding grounds. The MSC accommodates the public school curriculum and related activities, and YWCA Minneapolis provides sports and community programming at the MSC at other times. When programming occurs at both facilities at the same time, the parking lot can get crowded; however, on-street parking helps accommodate most parking needs. As we work to consolidate fitness offerings at our Midtown location, we will consider several factors, including physical space, pool capacity, demand for equipment, classes and programming, operating hours and parking. We will elicit member feedback, evaluate opportunities and adjust to best meet our members’ needs.

How will you address parking at YWCA Midtown, especially when there are events in the MSC? How will you ensure people aren’t parking without placards or license plates in place?

When there are events in the MSC we have an attendant dedicated to the event that helps troubleshoot any issues that may arise.  As they have many responsibilities inside the facility with regard to safety and security, often the issues surrounding improper use of parking spaces is overlooked. As we look to improve all aspects of the Midtown location, we are making improvements to our rental and manager on duty operating procedures to ensure those parking spaces are available for those who need them.

The Midtown pool has fewer lanes and the hot spa pool is semi-enclosed by a wall. What improvements do you plan to make to the site for patrons?

Given the structural layout of the Midtown Aquatics Center we do not want to remove accessibility for our members who require the use of the ramp to enter and exit the pool.  This would be the only feasible way of adding additional lanes to the pool. The whirlpool and steam room are situated in an area that is behind the water slide for the youth that utilize our facility. Removal of the water slide would open this area up more; however, that would be counter intuitive to providing a fun and welcoming environment for families utilizing the leisure pool. Still keeping member safety in mind, this is why we position the lifeguard chair to be next to the spa area so that members have easy access to that help should they need it.

What’s the plan to improve water safety and model improved pool behavior at the leisure pool?

When the leisure pool is open we always have at least one lifeguard on that is dedicated to that pool. Our lifeguards are trained not only to intervene in a safety situation, but also to enforce our policies. The pool area, of all the areas of the building, has the highest stakes when it comes to safety. We will be reviewing policies and procedures with our lifeguards and aquatics staff to continue to reinforce the standards YWCA Minneapolis aims to uphold.

What is your membership goal at Midtown to sustain fitness services?

Our Midtown location has always been the site that serves the most fitness members out of all three YWCA Minneapolis fitness locations. Our membership goals for the organization have leaned heavily on this site to take on the majority of that load. Given the closure of the Uptown and Downtown locations, we are confident that we will be able to meet and exceed membership goals required to continue to sustain fitness services.

What was/is your membership recruitment and retention strategy?

Post-pandemic, the strategy for recruitment of membership leaned heavily on previous members returning to the facility. We had offered those members to re-enroll at no charge with additional benefits for re-joining. Outreach to those members had continued on an every-other-month basis, letting them know of the changes to the facility and how we would make their experience a safe one given the situation at the time. Utilizing our dedicated membership base to spread the good word through referrals is an ongoing recruitment strategy that yields benefits for the referring member.

When looking to acquire new memberships we have taken a two-pronged approach. On one side we have utilized social media, direct mail pieces, community and on-site signage to promote our membership specials. Our membership promotions post-pandemic have been adjusted to provide the best deal and highest value we have ever offered to our prospective members. On the other side we have leaned into our other community partnerships and local corporations to provide membership offers to those individuals interested. This has led to bulk membership sales to individuals associated with those parts of the community and local corporations.  As membership revenue drives our facility, we will continue to have urgency on increasing membership sales.