Fire station to be turned into gym for disadvantaged youth in north Minneapolis

On the floor of an abandoned fire station in north Minneapolis, Victor Mills is laying the groundwork for a dream -- “We're going to have boxing, cardio equipment, nutrition program, possible yoga studio.  There’s a lot kids can do here.”

For the past few years, this recently retired Minneapolis cop has run a summer workout program for young people across the city.  But when he and fellow boxer Ryan Burnett learned the city was looking for someone to buy Station 14, they knew it could be a place to give kids without many options.

“We're not trying to create the next Mohamed Ali, we want a safe place where the kids can come,” Burnet said. “If they become great boxers, great.”

Station 14 was built in 1939, but the fire department left it empty when it built a new station about a decade ago.  So the city is selling the building to Fighting Chance for $40,000 – the nonprofit plans to spend almost a million dollars turning it into a community boxing gym and offices for Burnet's Barrio restaurant group.

“We know the Camden neighborhood in north Minneapolis is one of the most underserved for youth activity so the idea of having a positive place for youth to gather, learn competition, learn rules is real appealing to me and neighbors around there,” Barb Johnson, Minneapolis City Council, said. 

But Mills believes Fighting Chance will be a knockout for the entire community.

“We're not going to save everyone,” he said.  “We're not going to change everything that's going on in north Minneapolis, but we're going to change it for a few people. That's how you start.  We change it for a few people, they change it for someone else and it just keeps going.”