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Project Hopes To Create More Young Swimmers In Mpls.

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's a skill that can mean the difference between life and death.

That's why Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and city leaders are pushing for a new project - Minneapolis Swims - to help children learn to swim.

"This is a good opportunity to help create some more health for kids, to help create more safety for kids and help create a place in the community that everyone's welcome," Hodges said.

City, state and public health officials are coming together, pushing for a community pool in the Phillips neighborhood that would offer a shallow "learning pool" which would give the 20,000 kids who live there the affordable opportunity to swim.

Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger says the facility would also have an eight-lane pool for local swimming teams to use.

"We're the land of 10,000 lakes, and yet we have a lot of people who don't know how to swim," Ehlinger said.

He says the issue goes beyond saving lives. Making sure inner-city kids have access to a public pool will also improve their well-being.

"Everybody benefits if we have kids who can learn how to swim," he said. "That means their education is going to be better, they're going to be healthier, the community is going to be more vibrant."

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says community activities like swimming might just make the difference in the life of an at-risk youth.

"I don't want to prosecute these kids, and if they have things to do like swimming and other things, they can do that," Freeman said.

City officials hope to open the facility in 2016. They've secured just over $2 million in public and private funding, but still need another $6 million.

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