After a five-year wait, the new women’s varsity rowing team and men’s rowing club will have a new facility, which is scheduled to break ground in early October.
The $4.6 million building will be in East River Flats Park and will potentially be up and running in March.
Wendy Davis, the women’s rowing coach, said she is “very confident” now despite her earlier hesitation about the facility.
The women’s rowing team has practiced in a tent for the past five years, even though it was supposed to be used for only 18 months.
The tent is taken down each November because of code restrictions for snow loads on a tent, Davis said.
It can be 20 degrees or colder when rowing practice resumes in February or March.
“We have to chip ice off the boats to get them off the racks,” Davis said. “I have seen sweat turn to ice on athletes.”
Regina Sullivan, senior associate athletics director and sports administrator for rowing, said the women’s rowing team is the only varsity team that doesn’t have a permanent facility.
“You don’t have a basketball team without a gym for the team,” she said.
This July, the Board of Regents approved the facility, which will include a room for rowing machines, a room for a 12-person rowing tank, storage space for boats, locker rooms and showers.
Davis said that because of a tight budget, only amenities that would benefit athletic performance were included.
“When we’re making our choices, if it will allow the athletes to be fitter, faster and stronger, then we keep it,” she said.
Scott Ellison, associate director of athletic facilities, said $2.35 million from the University, $1.5 million of athletic fundraising and $750,000 from the recreational sports department are paying for the facility.
Athletics officials said they hope these additions will increase the performance of the teams.
“We will be 30 percent faster next year, just because we will be warm,” Davis said. “Once we get the facility, we have the ability to be No. 1 in the country.”
Athletics Director Joel Maturi said Davis will now have a facility that will attract the best recruits.
Ellison said the project has had administrative and site-related delays.
“The former administrator, Mark Yudof, put a moratorium on this (project),” Ellison said. “There are typical site issues, like rain runoff, but they’re magnified because of the river being right there.”
Maturi said the delays provided time to partner with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, which owns the East River Flats Park.