The University of Minnesota held a groundbreaking ceremony for the boathouse, today at the East River Flats Park on the University of Minnesota campus. The boathouse will start construction this month and is scheduled to open in the next academic year. The facility will rest on a half acre of the 38.6 acre East River Flats Park, located on the bank of the Mississippi River. The new facility, which will house the women’s varsity program and the men’s club team, will have men’s and women’s locker rooms, an erg and tank room for winter training purposes, a medical training area and coaches’ offices.
The groundbreaking ceremony consisted of a welcome from senior associate athletics director Regina Sullivan. The ceremony consisted of remarks from Kathy Brown from the University of Minnesota president’s office, athletics director Joel Maturi, director of recreational sports Dr. Jim Turman, and from the Minneapolis Parks and Recreational board member Walt Dziedzic.
Following the opening remarks, the groundbreaking began with members from the University of Minnesota and the Minneapolis Park Board as well has head coaches and student-athletes from both the women’s varsity program and the men’s club program. Head coach Wendy Davis and captain Cheryl Wick as well as club coach Tom Altenhofen and captain Sean McNulty spoke following the groundbreaking.
“I had to come over here to this area yesterday,” head coach Wendy Davis said. “When I got to this area, I saw a sign that said BLDG, which we know stands for building. To me, it means so much more then that. It stands for safety, warmth, permanency, legitimacy. It also stands for strength, power and speed. Most of all, it stands for excellence. Rowers, for you it stands for a home and the U of M boathouse. This has been six years in the making. These six years have not been idle six years. The people who have joined us here today have worked tirelessly on our behalf in order to make this day happen.”
As part of the agreement with the MPRB, the University of Minnesota is partnering with the MPRB to provide programming and other opportunities to community members. Programming will include youth clinics and camps in rowing along with other sports. In addition, the University will build separate public restroom facilities in the park for the benefit of all visitors.
Rowing has become one of the fastest growing sports in Division I athletics. In 1992, 12.6 percent of Division I institutions had rowing as a varsity sport. By 2002, it doubled to 27.2 percent. Now in 2006, there are over 85 Division I varsity programs, including seven from the Big Ten Conference. Of the seven conference schools (Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin), six were ranked in last year’s season-ending Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association poll.