YMCA Calgary > About > Our History

Our History


  • YMCA Calgary begins operating a library, public reading rooms and classes for young men and boys in the Maclean Block in downtown Calgary.

Calgary’s Population: 4,398
YMCA Calgary Members: 125


  • The first YMCA building in Calgary opens. Constructed on land leased from the Canadian Pacific Railway, the facility is named the Calgary City and Railroad YMCA. It would later become known as the Central Y.


  • Calgary becomes home to the first Chinese YMCA in North America. It is housed in the Chinese Mission at 120 2 Avenue. Along with recreational and fitness activities, the facility offers educational, vocational and leadership programs to a growing Chinese population.


  • The first Hi-Y (High School YMCA) Club in Canada emerges out of the Collegiate Club at Central High School. This service group is promoted as a means of training future volunteer leaders.


  • The City of Calgary makes Firehall No. 4 available to YMCA Calgary. It is equipped by the Y’s Men’s Club and the Rotary Club. That same year, it becomes the site of YMCA Calgary’s first official branch—Riverside YMCA.

  • In addition to providing boys activities and developmental programs, Riverside YMCA conducts evening classes and Leisure Time League activities. For a short time it is home to a girls’ club. (The Riverside YMCA building was returned to the City of Calgary in 1948.)


  • Rocky Mountain YMCA is established (Now known as Camp Chief Hector YMCA). Women from the Stoney Reserve make the first camp tipis.


  • YMCA Calgary offers recreation and learning opportunities to the unemployed during the Great Depression. A 1951 newspaper article will later say of these efforts: “Possibly the greatest public service Calgary YMCA has ever performed was between 1932 and 1936 during the depression when, despite the shortage of money, it managed to form and keep alive the Leisure Time League, an organization that offered to the hundreds of unemployed free courses in trades, crafts, arts and provided recreational facilities to keep them off the street and occupied.”


  • YMCA Calgary operates a canteen at the Mewata Armory and opens its doors to men in uniform. More than a million members of the Canadian Armed Forces will pass through the Central YMCA’s doors during World War II.


  • YMCA Calgary becomes a founding member of the Community Chest, the predecessor to the Calgary and Area United Way.


  • YMCA Calgary operates a social education club (So-Ed) for young adults. Sock hops, discussions, lectures, arts and crafts and social events give young people a place to meet, interact and have fun.


  • The Central Y moves from 9th Avenue and 1st Street SE to 6th Avenue and 3rd Street SW and expands programs and services. The old Central Y building is returned to the Canadian Pacific Railway.


  • The North and South Family YMCA branches open. These centres are Calgary’s first co-ed YMCA branches.

1960s & 70s

  • YMCA Calgary conducts a backyard learn-to-swim program in a variety of Calgary neighbourhoods. A portable pool is also used to teach swimming in several Calgary Catholic schools.


  • YMCA Camp Chief Hector relocates from Bowfort Lake to the Diamond Cross Guest Ranch site at Seebe, Alberta, becoming a co-ed camp in the transition. New outdoor education complex and conference centre named Yamnuska Centre, together with YMCA Camp Chief Hector, form the Rocky Mountain YMCA.


  • A new experimental venture in community work is created and a full-time staff member begins developing a variety of outreach programs.


  • Women are allowed to join the Central YMCA.


  • The Winning Spirit campaign raises $4.5 million to relocate the Downtown YMCA, renovate the North and South Family YMCAs and upgrade the Rocky Mountain YMCA.


  •  The Eau Claire YMCA branch is officially opened on 1st Ave and 3rd St SW. The branch serves men, women, boys and girls equally in Calgary’s booming downtown core.

  •  The North Family YMCA begins providing a recreation, fitness and lifestyle programs for youth at the Calgary Young Offender Centre.


  • YMCA Calgary refocuses attention on community initiatives, eventually creating a department to handle this function. By 1997, this department has evolved into its own branch named Community YMCA.


  • Dedicated to the principle of equal access for all, YMCA Calgary begins the YMCA Partners with Youth annual giving campaign, now known as the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign. This fund-raising campaign enables all children and youth to enjoy a YMCA experience despite financial circumstance.


  • In January, the North YMCA branch closes and the new Crowfoot YMCA opens at 8100 John Laurie Blvd NW.


  • YMCA Calgary opens the Shawnessy YMCA. Part of the South Fish Creek Complex, the facility is also home to a public library, a Catholic senior high school, Calgary Board of Education classrooms, a community gym and twin ice arenas.

  • YMCA Calgary celebrates 100 years of building strong kids, strong families and strong communities.


  • An extensive renovation on Camp Chief Hector Lodge gives it the capacity to serve 600 youth.

  • The YMCA Growing Strong Together Campaign begins. Funds raised will help build a new northeast branch, redevelop and expand Camp Chief Hector, Eau Claire and Crowfoot branches and provide financial assistance for those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy a YMCA Calgary experience.


  • The Growing Strong Together Campaign exceeds its $10-million goal.


  • Rocky Mountain YMCA officially changes its name to Camp Chief Hector YMCA. It is named for Chief Hector Crawler in honour of his efforts in development of the camp and building a harmonious relationship with the Nakoda people.

  • The YMCA Green Team is formed. This internal group is mandated to take steps which help our organization become more environmentally friendly.


  • Camp Chief Hector celebrates its 80th anniversary.

  • South YMCA is closed after 47 years of serving Calgarians.

  • Camp Chief Hector takes significant steps towards environmental sustainability.

  • Solar panels are installed on the roof of Hector Lodge at Camp Chief Hector. In addition to utilizing renewable energy, these panels teach visitors to the facility about environmental sustainability.

  • New state of the art water treatment system turned on at Camp Chief Hector YMCA. This system exceeds Alberta Environment regulations and sets a new standard for water treatment in the Kananaskis and Elbow Valley area.

  • A children’s garden is created to teach campers about growing food.


  • Saddletowne YMCA, located in northeast Calgary, opened its doors in January 2012. This branch houses the new Genesis Center of Community Wellness in the heart of Taradale, Martindale and Saddleridge communities.

  • In October 2012, YMCA Calgary opens YMCA in South Health Campus, part of the new Calgary Health Region’s South Health Campus. This facility is intended to integrate wellness, health research and education into a clinical setting. The focus is both on health and wellness as well as patient and community care in a state-of-the-art health facility.


  • The City of Calgary announced YMCA Calgary as operator of two new recreation facilities, Quarry Park (SE), Rocky Ridge (NW) and Seton (SE) set to open in 2016*, 2017* and 2018*. These new recreation facilities in Calgary are being developed to meet the growing city’s need for convenient access to recreation opportunities and support the important role recreation plays in building complete communities. *dates subject to change.

  • The YMCA Power of Potential Capital Campaign begins. Funds raised will help operate and equip the three new YMCA branches, upgrade our current facilities, including Camp Chief Hector YMCA and continue effectively serving those in establishing communities.


  • Eau Claire YMCA officially changed its name to the Gray Family Eau Claire YMCA. On February 27, in a steadfast commitment to his own wellness, Jim Gray completed over 300,000 lengths during 23 years to reach his goal of swimming across Canada. At this special event, we were thrilled to announce the renaming of Eau Claire YMCA to celebrate his commitment to the community through his ongoing support of YMCA Calgary.


  • Crowfoot YMCA officially changed its name to the Melcor YMCA at Crowfoot. In a significant boost to its Power of Potential Campaign, YMCA Calgary received a $1-million donation from Melcor Developments Ltd. celebrating the strong relationship between the YMCA, Melcor and its founding family, the Meltons. In recognition of this substantial and meaningful gift, YMCA Calgary renamed its Crowfoot YMCA facility in northwest Calgary.

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