Although a YMCA was started in the early 1900s in downtown Missoula, it was only in operation for a short time. The present day Missoula Family YMCA has been in continuous operation since 1970, when it operated out of a donated shack on leased land just south of the Western Montana Fairgrounds. By 1974, a Quonset hut was moved onto the grounds to provide offices for the staff along with an area for meetings and small programs. Today we annually serve more than 7,200 members and 18,000 program participants, 15,000 of whom are children.
Our local programs have grown from four in 1971 to more than 150 in 2009 and they encompass just about everything offered at any Y.
Originally without an appropriate physical facility, the Y relied on a decentralized concept using Missoula’s school gyms, playgrounds and sports fields for our programs. Today, even with our larger facility, we still use those same gyms and playgrounds to operate many of our programs in area neighborhoods.
We broke ground on our current facility on July 10, 1985, and hosted our grand opening on January 26, 1987. Programs began in the new building on February 5, 1987. Almost as soon as we opened the new building, the Board of Directors realized that the space was not going to be sufficient the meet the needs of the growing community. In 1990 we completed our first expansion: enlarging the fitness/weight/cardio area, adding a teen center and installing an elevator to allow easier access to the second level for individuals with special needs.
By 1996 it was apparent that we were rapidly outgrowing our facility again, so we embarked on a two-year study that included our staff, board and The University of Montana School of Business. Based on our findings, we decided to expand again. We launched a $2 million capital campaign in 1999 to expand the Health & Wellness Center, build an aerobics studio, provide a preschool area specifically designed for our younger members, add a small gym/community meeting area, expand our drop-in child care space and add new locker/shower rooms for families. Construction began that fall and the building’s expansion was completed in October 2000.
From our first donated shack through all of our expansions, construction of our Y has been accomplished through the generosity of many foundations, businesses and concerned individuals who believe in the YMCA Mission and are committed to providing a positive influence in our community. We have not received any tax dollars or federal grants to accomplish our mission or goals.
Our board is now evaluating the possibility of satellite locations in greater Missoula to continue to meet the needs of our growing community.