U rowers enjoying new practice boathouse

The facilities were in development for more than eight years prior to opening.

Tiff Clements

After years of practicing out of tents, trucks and tin sheds, University rowers are finally working out of their own facility.

Varsity women’s rowing coach Wendy Davis said the results are worth the eight-plus years of planning.

“Everybody is in awe,” she said. “We have everything we need to do it right.”

The varsity women’s and club men’s rowing teams moved into the new boathouse shortly after winter break. At the time, the building was still under construction. With only a few finishing touches such as landscaping and window treatments remaining, the athletics department is planning a grand opening for May 4.

Davis said the construction process has been a series of ups and downs.

The women’s athletics department secured $3 million to build the facility in the late 1990s, but a freeze on athletics construction in 2002 put the project on hold.

Davis said virtually every aspect of the plan fell through during the freeze.

“We lost the money, we lost the design and we lost the land,” she said. “I was like, ‘I’m screwed.’ “

She said the hard work of key people in the athletics department helped get the boathouse’s plans back on track.

Senior associate athletics director Regina Sullivan has been involved with the boathouse planning since she arrived at the University in 2001.

She said the addition to this program will have a positive impact throughout the athletics department.

“When something good happens for one of them it’s good for all of us,” Sullivan said.

The building sits on a half acre of the East River Flats Park. The facility was built at a cost of roughly $4.6 million, with the University paying $2.5 million, the department of Recreational sports paying $750,000 and private donors raising the remaining $1.5 million through the athletics department.

Vivian Langley, major gifts officer with the Golden Gopher Fund, said the athletics fundraising outfit has raised approximately $400,000 of its $1.5 million goal.

Amenities of the two-story facility include boat storage, men’s and women’s locker rooms and an indoor water tank that allows rowers to have on-the-water experience all year.

Varsity rowing team captain Cheryl Wick said she appreciates the safety of the new facility. She said though the team has only been in the boathouse for a few months, it feels like home.

The kinesiology graduate student said she is glad to no longer spend practice time waiting for a turn on a rowing machine in the basement of the Sports Pavilion or weight room at Mariucci Arena.

“It’s so hard to think back to that,” Wick said.

Captain of the men’s club rowing team Sean McNulty said he appreciates some of the facilities’ more basic assets.

“There’s nothing better than taking a warm shower after practice on a cold morning,” he said.

The senior mechanical engineering student said he thinks the new building will be a great recruiting tool.

“Our freshman coach said, ‘Finally, I’m not lying anymore when I tell people it’s a temporary facility,’ ” McNulty said.