University officials prepare for a new rowing facility

Preliminary plans for the University’s rowing team’s new boathouse were approved last week.

Than Tibbetts

University athletics and capital planning officials are gearing up for the construction of a new rowing facility on the East River Flats Park.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board approved preliminary plans for the new boathouse last week.

Gophers rowers have been waiting for a facility since the team’s inception in 2000, as their temporary, unheated tent can be frigid in the early months of the spring season. Women’s rowing is currently the only athletics team without a permanent facility.

Rowing head coach Wendy Davis said it is impossible for her to talk with the rowers after practice because they don’t have a heated facility.

The University has produced a tentative design for the facility, which would be a two-story building to accommodate the women’s varsity and men’s club rowing teams.

Regina Sullivan, the associate athletics director in charge of the rowing project, said the University will work with the park board to lease the land. In exchange for the land, the University will most likely provide public restrooms, improvements to the park and recreational programs at the facility.

Richard Pfutzenreuter, the University’s chief financial officer, said the rowing facility is also an important project that relates to Title IX, the federal gender-equity law.

Davis said the University needs to act now to avoid inflation and increasing the cost of construction on the East River Flats Park site.

“Already, we’ve had a delay of a year and a half, and the cost has gone up by a million dollars,” she said.

The final estimate of the project’s cost will be determined later in the planning stages. University officials said they hope to finance as much of the project as possible with private donations.

Although Davis said she was excited to hear about the progress, she still remained cautious.

“All I know is that the biggest domino has fallen down with the board’s approval. So now, the rest of the dominos can start falling down,” she said. “But I’ll be happy when there’s a hole in the ground.”