It’s promoted as a ‘beacon of hope’ for the community
A projected 14-month construction project has begun in North Minneapolis that officials say will bring jobs, youth recreation, child care and many other benefits to the community.
Officials of V3 Sports, who purchased a former commercial site on the corner of Plymouth and Lyndale Avenues North in 2017 to construct a huge sports, health and wellness complex, said last week during a November 18 groundbreaking ceremony that demolition of the existing building is expected to be completed in a couple of weeks.
When completed in 2024, the new building will contain an indoor 25-yard instructional pool, a hydro-therapy pool, fitness center, multi-purpose rooms, classrooms, office space, a drop-in child care center and a health-based kitchen/café.
It is promoted as more than a fancy rec center but “a beacon of hope…a focal point bridging the Northside to Downtown [Minneapolis]…a hub for the community to gather and grow together,” declares the V3 Center website.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz told the gathering, “Watching a community come together, watching a vision, watching us talk about a physical space with the capacity for us to transform an entire area is so inspiring.” The newly reelected governor was among several elected officials on hand who took part in the ceremonial groundbreaking amidst frigid temperatures.
Afterward, Walz told the MSR that his administration fully supports the new center, “an opportunity to have a world-class facility for our children” in North Minneapolis.
In December 2020, V3 Sports received an anonymous $4 million donation with a promise to match it if the organization can raise $4 million in additional community donations. Walz told the MSR he plans to submit a funding request during the next legislative session:
“I put a request in last year in our bonding bill, and we’ll certainly put that in again this year to make sure that we get the opportunity to play a part in this investment.”
The new center can “be seen in many other things,” said State Senator Bobby Joe Champion, whose District 59 includes the North Side and portions of downtown. He was the event emcee last week.
Champion later told the MSR, “I think it’s high time that people see that North Minneapolis is a great place to live, work and play. We need assets like this and other community jewels in order to make sure that we’re constantly promoting that notion.”
The first phase of the construction is led by firms that are owned by people of color: TRI-Construction and LSE Architects are both Black-owned, and RJM Construction is based in Golden Valley.
“We’re super excited to be here,” proclaimed LSE Lead Architect Keon Blassingame. “As an architect who grew up in this community, it’s really great to see such a project that’s strong and supportive.”
RJM Project Manager Tatiana Murphy added, “I will speak as a Northsider, what this project represents from the building side is to make sure that our community works on this project. Jobs are going to be created.”
“When you talk about racial equity,” said Northside Achievement Zone President/CEO Sondra Samuels, “we really have to talk about love equity and love justice. What I’ve seen here is 120,000 square feet full of love justice for kids who have been so left behind and neglected.”
During a tour of the facility last winter, Malik Rucker told the MSR, “We haven’t seen this type of investment” and estimated the total project costs at “about $60 million.” V3 Sports’ strategic partnerships and community engagement director also pointed out that the second phase of the project will include the installment of a 50-meter Olympic-style pool as well as multi-purpose courts.
Rucker told the gathering last week that the new center “will create a space for our young people and community members that would address the inequities that continue to face [them]. They just need a chance to reach their full potential.”
V3 Founder Erika L. Binger told the MSR after the ceremony, “We have to be really intentional about making sure that we have people to run the center who are actually members of the community. So, we are being really intentional about that and we do need to build that out.”
“This project is a great opportunity not only for economic development, a destination point in North Minneapolis, but it’s also for our children,” said Sen. Champion in a brief MSR interview after the ceremony. Like Walz, Champion also was reelected to the Minnesota Senate and elected Senate president, the first Black elected official in state history to hold the post.
“We can all agree that something needs to happen, but we need to come together and have a real plan around how do we address all of those disparities,” stated Champion. “Whether it’s health, wealth, education, higher ed, you name it, I think that we have to do everything to be very intentional and get beyond the surface, and dig deep down and deal with the root causes of the places and spaces that we find ourselves.
“Whether that’s public safety, whether that’s education, when we think in terms of disparities, whatever it is, we need to really make sure that we’re focusing on digging deep and coming up with viable solutions that will be life-changing and sustainable.”
Champion, Walz and many others believe that the V3 Sports project is a positive step in that direction. “These investments are long overdue,” said the governor.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.