Northside fitness center moves from dream to reality

Gov. Walz joined community leaders at groundbreaking for fitness center in the Near North area of Minneapolis

MINNEAPOLIS — The term “fitness center” falls short when it comes to describing the hopes and dreams surrounding the V3 Center, which will soon take shape on this city’s northside.

Governor Tim Walz, local leaders, and key players who’ve worked for years to take the health and wellness center from the drawing board to reality gathered Friday ceremonial groundbreaking.

The event drew hundreds to the site of an old book bindery on Plymouth Avenue, who see V3 as a sign of hope for the Near North and the wider community, where huge gaps exist in opportunities for children to learn how to swim.

“I have to personally give thanks to God for bringing us this far,” Erika Binger, V3’s founding director and coach, told the crowd.

“The V3 center will be a community asset and regional destination that will generate health and economic vitality. It is a space that can help transform our community and region and build upon all the strengths and assets already here.”

Demolition began this week on the bindery to make way for the first phase of the center, a $21 million public-private project that will open in 2024. Phase One will feature 25-yard instructional pool, a fitness center, classrooms, a healthy food kitchen and café, plus drop-in childcare facilities.

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Binger thanked Sen. Bobby Joe Champion for going to bat for the project and his work to build bridges to help get the project off the ground. She thanked Gov. Walz for recognizing that underserved and under resourced communities need intentional investments by the government and the private sector.

Walz last year included money for V3 in his bonding request to the legislature, but the session ended before Senate Republicans and House Democrats could agree on a public works construction package. He said he’ll make it part of his bonding request again in 2023.

“Watching a community come together, watching a vision, watching us talk about physical space with the capacity to transform an entire area is so inspiring,” Walz remarked.

“The energy you feel in this tent today is that belief in our future, the belief that every single one of our children and all of our communities deserve a facility like the one being dreamed out here.”

The second phase of V3 will include multi-purpose courts and that 50-meter pool that came from the 2021 Olympic swimming trials held in Omaha.

Sondra Samuels, who has led the Northside Achievement Zone for years, said having a facility like V3 in the neighborhood will send a powerful message to young people.

“For kids who have been so left behind and neglected this place says we love you, and you matter.”

Malik Rucker, a former collegiate athlete who has led the community engagement process for V3 sports, was greeted by applause by those who gathered for the event.

“V3 is going to be the place to be; to be healthy, to be authentic, to be safe.”

Keon Blasingame, the lead architect on the project, said he’s been meeting with community members to get a feel for what they want to see at V3.

Project manager Tatiana Murphy of RJM Construction, and Calvin Littlejohn of Tri-Construction Inc., told the audience they’re committed to using a diverse workforce as they build the center.

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