Minnesota Now with Cathy Wurzer

V3 Sports aquatic, recreation center looks to bridge racial gap in north Minneapolis

People swimming in an indoor pool
The 25-yard indoor pool at V3 Sports will offer aquatic lessons, including "Swim 2 Learn," a trauma-informed program.
Courtesy of V3 Sports

V3 Sports is at the gateway of north Minneapolis, on the corner of Plymouth and Lyndale avenues. And its founders hope it will be a gateway to access for swimming and recreation for the community.

“North Minneapolis deserves it,” V3 Executive Director Malik Rucker told MPR News host Cathy Wurzer. “To be able to invest at this level in north Minneapolis was important for us, because oftentimes our community finds itself having to go to the suburbs or communities that are not ours to get those resources.”

The center opened to north Minneapolis residents only on May 11, but will be holding their grand opening on Saturday. They plan to serve 1,000 people per day, with half of those being youth. They expect to see 10,000 visitors annually.

The grand opening is just the beginning of a two-phase plan. The first phase includes a group and individual fitness space, drop-in child care center, out-of-school activities and its crown jewel: a 25-yard teaching and training pool.

Inside the pool won’t be your standard swim lessons. Ayanna Rahku has developed a first-of-its-kind swimming program called “Swim 2 Learn.” Rahku is a board member for V3 Sports.

Her Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Minnesota was titled “Mother May I Swim?” and looked at the reasons why many African American mothers and their children don’t swim.

Rahku found there are several barriers for African Americans including generational trauma, drownings or bad experiences in water, “so that automatically brings some fear to that aspect,” she said.

Drowning rates among African American males aged 15 to 24 are three times higher than any other racial group in this age range in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Health in 2022.

Rakhu’s new swim philosophy is focused what she calls the “swim efficacy reclamation model.” Rahku turned that model into a program called “Swim 2 Learn.”

Its tenets are the five R’s: Reflect, Reconcile, Reassess, Respond and Reform. Before swimmers even get in the water, they’re thinking about their relationship to water first, and working through any associated trauma.

“It’s really a way to help people connect and have a relationship with the water. So it’s very self-informed and about self-awareness, which I think is different than what a lot of people are offering,” Rakhu said.

On top of “Swim 2 Learn,” V3 Sports will also offer “Swim 2 Earn” which is designed for people exploring a career in aquatics. There also will be Open Pool time and Pool Play.

V3 Sports also has 5,500 square feet of fitness equipment, group fitness classes, drop-in child care, Boys and Girls Club programming and a restaurant — the first on Plymouth Avenue in 20 years.

A rendering of a recreation center
Phase two of V3 Sports is expected to be completed in 2027 and will include an Olympic-sized 50-meter competitive pool.
Courtesy V3 Sports

The current offerings are just the beginning. Phase two of V3 Sports includes plans for a 50-meter Olympic-sized competition pool that was used during the 2021 Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, Nebraska.

“It got shipped here on four semis from Omaha, and then it's in storage now, but then, once we build it back up, we'll put it back together,” said Rucker.

Phase two is set to open in 2027.