It was 11 p.m. on a Sunday night, about 2 hours after records fell and a few of the world’s best athletes just qualified to represent the US in the Summer Games in Tokyo. The bright lights were still shining, the Trials pool was still glimmering, but the loud cheers of excitement from a crowd of thousands had died down. It was eerily quiet.
At least until V3’s Director of Community Engagement and Partnerships Malik Rucker kicked things off, jumping into the water, feet first. The V3 team that traveled to Omaha for the trials had the chance to take a quick, late-night dip.
“This is absolutely amazing. I did not know it could be this incredible. Overwhelming. It’s surreal. Everybody who came down with us, they’re in the water having so much fun, just swimming in the pool, which is ours. That was so heartwarming to see because you know, that’s going to be what happens in North Minneapolis too. And it just brings people alive,” said V3 Founder Erika L. Binger.
At just a hair less than 80 degrees, the pool was comfortable, clean, and big. It takes more than a half-a-million gallons of water to fill a pool 50 meters long.
“You know, it just gave me a whole new perspective of Olympic Swimming. I made it all the way down and back (100 meters) and man, let me tell you, it’s not easy,” V3 supporter John Baker said.
“It feels like one of the cleanest pools ever. Like normally, you’d be able to smell chlorine, but you can’t smell any chlorine and you feel clean. It feels like you’re taking a shower,” V3 teammate, and teen, Aaron Blasingame explained.
Just a couple of weeks after V3’s midnight dip, the pool was carefully taken apart, piece by piece, and placed onto pallets, before everything was packed into 4 semi-trucks for the journey to Minneapolis. For US Gold Medalist Swimmer Cullen Jones, it’s a crucial leg of the race to provide life-saving swimming lessons for people of color.
“What do you think is going to happen when you have all those kids in there? It’s the same thing. It’s a magical moment when you’re able to get this beautiful pool that for some kids, they don’t have beautiful things in their life. And now Minneapolis is going to have this beautiful pool, this world-class pool. Go out there and utilize it, go out there and use this pool. Learn to swim!” Jones said, after meeting with the V3 team for dinner.
“Minneapolis is going to have this beautiful pool, this world-class pool. Go out there and utilize it, go out there and use this pool. Learn to swim!”
— Cullen Jones, Olympic Gold Medalist
V3 continues to gain measurable momentum, raising funds for the construction costs to build the V3 Center. Phase one will include a building with some much-needed community space and a 25-yard teaching pool. The plan is to break ground in the coming months, with the addition of the 50-meter Olympic pool a little further down the road, once more donations are secured.
Back in the water during that epic late-night swim, as the CHI Arena crew was preparing to clean the pool for the next day of races and trials, Binger hopped out of the water. She had goosebumps, and not just because of the temperature change she experienced from jumping out of the pool.
“I think it’s hard to believe. It will feel real when we have it up in North Minneapolis. This is just the first step, but this is an incredible first step. Amazing first step, I don’t think there are words for it. It’s really magical,” she concluded.