A first look inside the new Downtown YMCA building (video tour included)
The ragtime music softly pouring out of the gym speakers set the mood, as downtown YMCA director of membership operations Shannon Aubrey led me through the new three-story facility at 808 Pease, just a stroll away from the old Y at 1600 Louisiana.
After five minutes in the building, I started to question if I'd entered a movie set of the Jetsons on accident. The new downtown YMCA is not opening 'til Sept. 20 (which is actually weeks earlier than the Oct. 4 opening date announced earlier), but CultureMap received a sneak preview of the largely unseen digs.
The honey-brown floors of the gymnasium are covered in clear plastic chairs. The weightlifting equipment shines with an untouched veneer. The bicycle machine wheels wield steel discs and look animatronic as they sit in rows, like soldiers ready for war.
The new building — which is fully named the Tellepsen Family Downtown YMCA — offers a striking visual foil from Houston's old downtown YMCA even before you step inside. Just driving past and seeing all the windows and the sleek facade is an attention catcher.
The old landmark, worn-down, 10-story downtown YMCA building on Louisiana will likely be demolished after the transition to the new building. The Tellespen Family Downtown YMCA building cost $55 million to build and its ultra-modern look is about as far from its predecessor in feel as it could possibly be.
The new building has a 25-yard lap pool with four lanes, exercise bikes galore, swimsuit spinners (for drying) and a chapel.
It's named after the facility's lead donor, a Houston family known for its contributions to community causes, particularly the YMCA. The Tellespens' ties to the YMCA date back to 1910.
The Y has always been cited as a place of community (or of Village People). With this in mind, it should be no surprise to anyone that during my tour I managed to run into someone I'd last seen in the Village (or at least on a Houston stage playing Greenwich Village). Local actress Beth Hopp — now starring as the female lead in the Main Street Theater’s Doctor’s Dilemma — was exploring the yoga room, where she’ll be instructing after the new YMCA opens.
Membership to the Y can be a bit pricier than some other gyms around town, but the organization does offer scholarships for teenagers and tries to accommodate people bringing in less than $50,000 a year.
On Tuesday, the ribbons will be cut in celebration of the Y’s 125th anniversary serving Houstonians, but the new building doesn't open its doors for business until next Monday.
Come along on the CultureMap tour of the new downtown YMCA: