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On a construction site in north Minneapolis, signs of a future aquatic center are starting to take shape after crews poured concrete for a 25-yard swimming pool.

V3 Sports is building a $97 million aquatics and sports center that the nonprofit's leaders hope will be a regional destination and boost equity in sports.

"It's a space built for and by our community that we can have ownership over and be proud of," said Malik Rucker, V3's director of strategic partnerships and community engagement and a fifth-generation North Sider. "I hope it sparks further community investments [in north Minneapolis]."

The small nonprofit has big plans to wrap up the first phase of the project, which will have a five-lane teaching pool and other amenities, by next April while launching fundraising now for a second phase that will eventually feature a bigger 50-meter Olympic-sized indoor competition pool — only the third of its kind in Minnesota.

V3 Sports is one of the many nonprofits seeking state funding at the Legislature before lawmakers adjourn next month, hoping it will help pay for projects that serve the public — from food shelves to homeless shelters.

Bills introduced in the House and Senate would allocate $15 million to V3's project. That's less than a quarter of the $70 million price tag for the second phase of the project, which will have four courts to host basketball games and other sports or events, and the pool used in the U.S. Olympic trials in Omaha in 2021. The pool was disassembled and will be rebuilt in Minneapolis.

DFL Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, who introduced the Senate bill, said V3's center, which is in his Minneapolis district, will increase access to swimming lessons for children of color in their own neighborhood. Drowning rates are higher among children of color nationwide. The V3 Center will also be a statewide asset, he said, and hopefully a catalyst for other redevelopment projects.

"I want people to see north Minneapolis is a great place to work, live and play," Champion said. "This will be a clear shot in the arm so people know that, in a community that has been traditionally disinvested in, there's an intentional strategy to invest in it."

V3's funding request was part of last year's failed bonding bill and it has widespread support again this year, Champion said. Already, he added, the first phase of the project is employing many contractors and architects from north Minneapolis.

"It's much more than just a pool," he said. "We want others to come into north Minneapolis and for them to be able to see the assets and not just the deficits."

Rucker and Erika Binger, V3's founding director, are relying on city, county and state money for about a quarter of the project's costs while seeking private donations, grants and even naming rights of the center to fund the rest of the redevelopment.

"We're just creating access for youth and families to have a space for them to belong," said Binger, a former triathlete and a philanthropist whose great-grandfather, 3M executive William McKnight, started the McKnight Foundation in Minneapolis, one of the largest private foundations in the state. "I don't believe economics should play a role in what you have access to in your life."

She started V3 in 2007 while volunteering as a swim coach and seeing that kids had no public access to indoor pools designed for competition.

V3 began as an all-volunteer nonprofit, hosting summer triathlon programs for about 50 kids at Minneapolis parks each year, addressing health disparities and boosting access to what's long been a racially segregated sport. Binger envisioned building a state-of-the art facility that could be a regional destination in north Minneapolis, hosting year-round programs and serving more families.

In 2017, V3 Sports bought a former bookbinding warehouse at the prominent intersection of Plymouth Avenue N. and Lyndale Avenue, with a view of the downtown skyline. Once complete, the center will hire about 60 employees and is expected to draw up to 1,000 people a day — from swimmers competing or learning how to swim, to community members working out or hosting graduation parties and other events.

Rucker said the center was specifically designed with input from North Side kids, who encouraged developers to add more indoor basketball courts.

The pandemic delayed construction, which finally began in November. Besides a 25-yard pool, the first phase also includes drop-in child care, a fitness facility and a hydrotherapy pool. The 40,000-square-foot building is slated to open next spring.

Binger said the start of construction on the three-story building in the second phase will depend on fundraising. But the Italian-made Olympic trials pool, which V3 bought at a substantial discount, is sitting in a warehouse ready to be installed.

"We were intentional about getting the best," Binger said about the much-sought-after pool. "Our community deserves the best."