City disputes about runoff halt construction of rowing facility

by Lora Pabst

Rowing coach Wendy Davis was promised a rowing facility when she was hired five years ago.

Instead, that time has been filled with delays and practice in a cold tent.

Now there is another hang-up that has delayed groundbreaking for more than a month.

The rowing facility project is caught in the middle of a discussion between the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the city of Minneapolis about how to deal with storm water runoff.

In the meantime, the rowing team finished its fall season and began its winter practice in a new location: Mariucci Arena.

The team rowing machines were housed in Williams Arena but had to be moved to Mariucci because of recent basketball locker-room construction.

Davis said electrical machines were damaged after being stored in a leaky outdoor tent.

“We’re always having to send (the rowing machines) off for repairs because electronics and water don’t mix,” she said.

The team has 20 rowing machines that cost $800 each.

Orlyn Miller, director of planning and architecture for capital planning and project management, said they have overcome all of the obstacles with the rowing facility except how to manage storm water. The project will require the University to relocate a city storm sewer pipe.

The city and the University have proposed building a depressed area to hold water from heavy storms. The park board has said it is worried about what a depression will mean for the use, appearance and long-term maintenance of the East River Flats Park, Miller said.

The park is owned by the city and managed by the Park Board. They both have to agree on how to use the land.

“There are issues the two of them need to sort out, not just here but in the future,” Miller said. “Virtually every project in the city needs to address these runoff issues.”

Last week, Miller and project manager Fred Clayton met with representatives from the Park Board and the city to discuss what to do with storm water runoff. They did not reach a final agreement.

Representatives from the Park Board and the city could not be reached by press time.

Clayton said University officials are doing everything they can to facilitate the decision of the city and Park Board.

“We can’t move forward till the Park Board and city resolve their differences,” he said. “If we can resolve this quickly, we’ll be in the ground real quick, otherwise we might be delayed till spring.”

Scott Ellison, associate athletics director of facilities, said the cost of the $4.6 million project will not increase.

Davis said the team has still performed well despite its lack of permanent housing. It beat Wisconsin, which was ranked 14th in the country last year.

She said the team’s goal is to reach the top 10.

“We’re at such an exciting phase in our program,” Davis said. “Now if we could just get a real, live home.”