The V3 Center, a massive aquatic and fitness facility built over the past year at the corner of Lyndale and Plymouth avenues in north Minneapolis, officially opened Saturday with Minnesota's only public hydrotherapy pool, a 25-yard lap pool, drop-in child care and a fitness center.

It also features a new Boys and Girls Club named for former Minneapolis Boys and Girls Club Director John Hardeman III and a restaurant and catering kitchen to be run by Soul Bowl chefs Brittney and Gerard Klass.

"I've literally heard people say, 'I live over North; I was moving out of the North Side, and I unpacked my house because of V3," said Executive Director Malik Rucker, who grew up in north Minneapolis and played football at the University of Iowa.

"Thank-you to the community. Us Northsiders know it — there has been some distrust. A lot of people that have said they're going to do things haven't done it. ... But we're here today."

The 40,000-square-foot facility is just the first phase of a fitness campus that is planned to be five times larger. V3 Sports estimates the entire project, when finished, will cost about $126 million, host 1,500 visitors daily and draw $10 million annually to north Minneapolis. Phase two received $15 million in state bonding last year. More than 100 long-term employees are expected to be hired.

On Saturday morning, 22-year-old lifeguard Shakur Smith kept watch over adult swimmers as they learned an elementary backstroke. Smith, who taught himself to swim as a kid by leaping into a community pool in Florida — using a basketball to float — said V3 offers water safety knowledge while being sensitive to common hindrances that discourage people of color from trying water sports, such as lack of hair protection and bad experiences at other pools.

"Water safety in general is like a necessity in life," Smith said. "When people leave these doors, they learn something and they're taking something with them. So that's my joy, honestly, getting people excited to say, 'I can do this.'"

V3 had a soft opening in April, when memberships became available for north Minneapolis residents; the center has signed up 360 members so far. Memberships cost $60 a month for single adults, $70 for couples in the same household and $35 for youth up to age 22 and seniors 60 or older.

Word is getting around about the twice-weekly water aerobics class, said George Johnson Houston, 83, who has made V3 her core workout routine, finding the coaching professional and the membership fees reasonable.

"I think [the facility] is marvelous," said Johnson Houston. "I'm very pleased. And there's more to discover."

Saturday's grand opening was attended by Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, state Senate President Bobby Joe Champion, state Rep. Esther Agbaje, Mayor Jacob Frey and others. Memberships are now available to all visitors, no matter where they live.

"It just makes me want to cry every day, but V3 changed my life," said board Chair Analyah Schlaeger dos Santos, an alumna of two decades ago when she completed on a north Minneapolis triathlon team under the tutelage of V3 Sports founder Erika Binger.

"This space is one where we can change the narrative," she said. "I grew up in north Minneapolis, and our community is overburdened and underfunded, as a lot of us know. So this is an opportunity to bring resources and joy and pride back into our communities."

A parking lot behind the V3 complex is the site of the second phase of construction. There sit four shipping containers holding a 50-meter U.S. Olympics Swim Trials pool used in Omaha in 2021, which Binger bought for $1 million and shipped to north Minneapolis before the ground had even been broken on the first phase of the center.

Binger had no experience with development before dreaming up the V3 Center, she said, while Rucker joked that perhaps it was the team's ignorance of limitations that actually brought the mammoth development into being.

"This community asset is here because God placed the vision in my heart," said Binger. "North Minneapolis has amazing programs and people, yet lacks the necessary infrastructure to serve the more than 12,000 young people within a 15-minute walk from here. We intentionally built here.

"We believe it shouldn't matter where you're born, the color of your skin, the assets in your bank account. Everyone should have the same opportunities."