By Norman Seawright III

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A former Gopher and NFL player is partnering with the St. Paul Port Authority to provide a space combining sports and fitness.

It’s also a way for firefighters and police officers to connect personally with the community.

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The Dinomights non-profit uses sports, faith, and academics to build better youth. Just this week, two Minneapolis Police officers – including Chief Arradondo – played football with them.

“That felt really great. Instead of just watching, they were just playing with us and talking to us,” said a Dinomights student.

“That’s what basically helped, and you have the same sport you can talk about what do you do or what do you play?” said Daniel Liborio

This is the focus of the development happening at St. Paul’s Treasure Island Center.

“With the police, that’d be an important one. Having a safe place for that type of integration is important and hasn’t been well accomplished yet,” said wellness specialist Dr. James Midboe

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Ben Utecht played tight end for the Gophers and the Indianapolis Colts. He says empathy made all the difference to the teams.

“And replicating it in the businesses we have in this great state is what we have to do, because now is a time for change, and if we’re going to change, let’s change the right way,” he said.

He has dreams of athletic training, a wellness clinic, warrior-style training, all to put in one place.

“It will help bridge the divide, hopefully, between community and public servants and and as a bonus, set a standard for how we can bring restoration, how we can bring hope.

“Young boys and girls, they’re the future of America,” said Dinomights Site Leader James Toussaint. “With them seeing us as people first, I mean, what better way to bring people together than with sports?”

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The project is in its beginning stages but Utecht and his partners are aiming to connect with non-profits to help continue building relationships.

Norman Seawright III