The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
Castiglione delle Stiviere is a town in Italy, boasting a population of more than 23,000 people. It sits in the Northern Italy, in the Province of Mantua, some 4,653 miles from North Minneapolis. It’s where the first step of V3 Center’s pool takes place, under the watchful eyes of the highly-skilled craftspeople who build pools for the world, piece by piece. It is a tedious and technical process.
“You can see how thin it is. This is the sidewall of the pool,” explained Aaron Gabriel with Myrtha Pools as he held up a tile that is part stainless-steel, part PVC. “These two substances are basically baked together in our manufacturing center in Italy.”
But before this pool ends up in a first of its kind athletic facility on the corner of Plymouth and Lyndale in Minneapolis, creating an economic engine and providing life-saving swimming lessons, it will be shipped to Omaha, Nebraska, where it’ll be built in less than a month and used for less than 2 weeks. It’s a pretty prestigious stop on the journey.
The U.S. Olympic Team Trials will be held in Omaha in June of 2021. The nation’s best will compete for a chance to represent the USA in the Olympic Games. They’ll leave everything they have, some realizing their dreams, inside the walls of V3’s 50-meter Myrtha Pool.
“There are so many world-class athletes from the United States that are competing in these vessels. And it just brings with it a certain something special. I mean, at every Olympic Trials there are American records broken. Almost always there are a handful of world records broken in these pools. And that just puts something special into the pool,” Gabriel, who once competed in the Olympic Trials, remarked. Once permanently installed in North Minneapolis, the “something special” will continue.
V3 purchased the Olympic-trials pool in September 2019. In June of 2021, after the country’s top swimmers have earned their ticket to Tokyo, trucks with the disassembled pool will roll east down I-80, away from Omaha before heading north on I-35. It’ll be destined for a community that doesn’t have access to world-class health and wellness facility, much less a year-round swimming pool.
Olympic Gold Medalist Cullen Jones knows a thing or two about Olympic Trials pools, having earned a spot on the 2008 Olympic team with strong finishes in the 100 free and 50 free. He would go on to win a gold medal in Beijing, China that year as part of the 400 free relay team, becoming only the second African American swimmer to do so. During the 2012 Olympic Games in London, he earned another gold medal, along with two silver medals.
A few years ago, V3 invited him to Minneapolis to teach kids and adults from the Northside how to swim at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on the campus of the University of Minnesota.
“When I was younger, I took three buses actually to get to the pool that I was going to. And it was in Newark, New Jersey, the JFK 50-meter pool. This takes me back to my childhood because I made the effort to get to that pool because I wanted to be there. So, having a pool like this in North Minneapolis, and the efforts that V3 is going through, is astounding. It’s taking me back to my childhood,” Jones said.
Jones is never far from the water, dedicating an enormous amount of time and energy as an ambassador for the USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash Initiative. “Swimming is a life skill. So, teaching these kids how to swim is really life changing, especially when it comes to minorities in the US. We’re dying at an epidemic rate. And especially all Americans, honestly. Sixty-four percent of African Americans, 54% of Latin Americans, and 40% of Caucasians don’t know how to swim. So, it’s a problem amongst all races in the US,” Jones remarked.
Making sure every adult and child in North Minneapolis has access to swimming lessons, and more broadly, to health and wellness opportunities, is the journey V3 has put its heart and soul into. This mission is more of a marathon than a sprint.
Acquiring this “cool pool” is a big step in the journey. “I think what enhances the value for V3 is they will always have that tie to Olympic greatness,” Aaron Gabriel concluded.
If we’re counting individual steps, there are too many to count. The tiles that make up the 50-meter pool will have traveled nearly 5,000 miles before they find their final home in North Minneapolis. There isn’t another place on the entire globe more deserving of the honor.