Eugene YMCA Could Lose Lottery Money for New Building

Thanks to COVID-10, fewer people are gambling, which has impacted lottery funds and the projects it funds

With every Scratch-its game and session of video poker, the state lottery sends money to various programs throughout Oregon. But people just aren’t gambling these days (unless you count leaving the house without a mask), resulting in less revenue to the agency.

The (Bend) Bulletin reports that 37 projects authorized by the Oregon Legislature in 2019 might not go out because of the steep drop in lottery funds.

One project listed is the new Eugene YMCA facility. But the nonprofit says the possible loss of funds won’t deter them from building the new facility.

“With that funding being debated, it changes our expectation but in no way affects our will to finish,” Eugene YMCA CEO Brian Steffen tells Eugene Weekly.

According to The Bulletin‘s article, the state has to show a 4-to-1 ratio between the forecast Lottery Fund revenue and the amount of debt in the bonds. The Lottery said earlier this month that April sales were 90 percent off compared to last year, making the fund’s ratio 3-to-1.

In 2014, the Eugene YMCA went into a land purchase agreement with Eugene School District 4J to purchase the land where Roosevelt Middle School once was. The sale was finalized in 2018.

The Eugene Y is raising $37 million to build a 65,000 square foot facility on the plot of land. The state planned to send a big chunk for the new facility: $15 million. During the 2019 legislative session, legislators agreed on sending the Eugene YMCA $15 million in January 2021 provided the nonprofit was on track for its fundraising, which it was, Steffen says.

He says that the Y is optimistic that the state will find solutions to fund the new facility, as well as the other projects, because the Legislature knows it would be a significant driver to construction, which is then a significant part of the state’s economic recovery.

“What is clear is that everyone is invested in these projects,” he says. “That’s what leads us to have the optimism for the path forward.”

The nonprofit will continue to look for more funding solutions because it can’t give up on the new facility, he adds.

Steffen says that the nonprofit and legislators have worked closely for the past few years for the state funding and during the COVID-19 impact. Although legislators didn’t call him about the possible $15 million cut The Bulletin reported July 8, he says he talked with them prior to being interviewed for this story.

Because the new Eugene YMCA is still on track for its 2021 fundraising goals, he says the nonprofit is still moving forward with construction designs. Although circumspect on setting an exact date of the opening of the new facility, Steffen says they’re still on track for construction in 2021 and completion in 2022.

“This news doesn’t kill our project because our vision is more than a building,” he says.