Proposed aquatic center could reduce drowning deaths

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LSE Architects A rendering of the planned swimming pool

Members of the North Minneapolis community gathered on Tuesday, June 28 to discuss the future of a year-round youth swimming and development center. Parents, children and familiar faces in town gathered for a special information session on the development of the V3 Centre.

The new initiative aims to provide an accessible place for young people and the wider community to learn to swim, end a long-standing generational fear of water and reduce racial disparities in drowning.

V3 Sports is the nonprofit organization behind the idea founded by Erika Binger, an athlete who served as the first female athletic director of the Jack Cornelius Boys & Girls Club in Minneapolis. Binger said the name V3 comes from the term “winner in 3,” which is a mantra she’s had since racing and coaching young athletes for triathlons.

In 2019, V3 obtained and purchased a 50 meter Olympic size swimming pool which was used for the 2021 United States Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, Nebraska. The 50-meter pool “is stored in the warehouse and will be installed during the second phase,” Binger said. In addition to this pool, the organization also purchased a 25-yard practice pool for the center.

The center will also include multi-purpose courts, a running/biking track, a fitness and community gathering space, retail storefronts, a drop-in daycare and education rooms. V3 organizers expect the center to bring positive attention to the area, attracting many spectators, visitors and families each year.

It will provide employment opportunities, generating an expected annual impact of $5.2 million for the local economy and 60 full-time and part-time jobs year-round, according to V3 Sports.

Fees for using the center will be based on a sliding scale. Asked about funding for V3, Binger said V3 is in the government bond bill currently stalled in Congress. Currently, V3 is “actively fundraising from foundations, donors and corporations,” Binger said.

“It’s 120,000 square feet that will be community-built and community-managed,” said V3 supporter Doris Baylor. “This is a huge opportunity for our city.”

Phyllis Goff, a recent V3 volunteer, said her experience with the stereotype that “black people can’t swim” pushed her to fight for change alongside the organization. “I didn’t learn to swim when I was younger,” Goff said. “What I thought was normal was not. Children of color have a disparate number of drownings in America.

A rendering of the planned swimming pool

According to the YMCA, 64% of black children cannot swim, and the fatal drowning rate for black/African American children is three times higher than for white children.

“I hate to tell you it’s not just a stereotype… Some of it is true,” Baylor said. She said she didn’t learn to swim until she was in college because it was a requirement for graduation from the HBCU she attended.

Baylor said it’s equally important that adults learn to swim for the sake of their children. “I remember some of those horror stories of adults on the shore trying to save their kids in the water and they can’t.”

She added, “If people are going to get into it, they need to know what they’re doing.”

In September 2017, V3 Sports purchased its future location, currently a warehouse at 701 Plymouth Avenue North in Minneapolis. A year later, staff members began working in the space, including Malik Rucker, director of community engagement at V3, and Raven Tittle, the organization’s administrative director.

“I grew up in the suburbs,” Tittle said. “I was lucky to be in a position where my family could swim. Understanding how many people couldn’t was crazy for me. It’s a very generational question. If your grandparents didn’t know, then your parents didn’t know, and now you probably don’t.

Rucker said North Minneapolis would gain a lot from this facility and that sports values ​​in children shape them in a positive way.

“There is a lack of infrastructure for our community to be healthy,” Rucker said. “Since growing up here, I’ve been truly thrilled to have health and wellness opportunities and that our community is healthy.

“It taught me a lot of life lessons that I still carry today. From knowing how to deal with adversity, to trusting the process, and strategizing…there are so many lessons to learn.

The organization is excited about its next steps and how it can improve North Minneapolis. The center plans to open “probably December 2023/January 2024,” Binger said. “We have a great team in place. More people now have the vision, but they also contribute and make it better and stronger. »

The V3 Center is currently in its fundraising phase and is continually seeking partnerships in the community. For more information on V3, visit their website at v3sports.org.

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