March 3, 2010

Cornell Rowing Expands Boathouse on Cayuga

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The Cornell Rowing Center on Cayuga Lake is scheduled to undergo an $8 million renovation, ending a 12-year endeavor to expand the boathouses and equalize the women and men’s locker room facilities, according to Anita Brenner, associate director of athletics. The renovations will begin sometime this summer and be completed by Spring 2011.

The women’s rowing team has tripled in size since the Robison boathouse was built, but the women’s locker rooms are still one-third the size of the men’s facilities, said Todd Kennett, the Spirit of ’57 Director of Rowing. Three new locker rooms will be added to the Collyer boathouse in order to provide the women with equal facilities, Gehman said.

“If you’re going to claim that a locker room makes you fast, I’m going to laugh at you,” said Kennett, “but we’re training athletes that end up in the Olympics sometimes so everything needs to be equal.”

Another motivation for renovating the boathouses is competition.

“Right now, across the Ivy League, we are at a disadvantage. There are quite a few Ivy League schools that have nicer facilities than we do,” Gehman said.

Princeton’s Shea Rowing Center, for example, added a 13,500 square-foot addition in 2000 that includes a 16-person rowing tank, a repair bay, seven boat bays, four large workout spaces, locker rooms, coaches’ offices and even a small apartment complex, according to the Princeton Rowing website.

“Princeton’s boathouse is unbelievably nice,” said Matthew Scheuritzel ’12, a member of the men’s heavyweight team, “and Cornell’s [rowing center] is pretty nice too, but it’s definitely in need of a face-lift.”

Included in the cost of the project will be the construction of a new training facility in Collyer that will allow multiple crews to workout on machines at the same time, said Kennett. Having the training facility inside the rowing center could save the team up to 45 minutes, since they currently have to split their time between rowing on Cayuga Lake and training in Teagle Hall.

“Having everything in one place will be really great, especially since we can all be together as a team,” Scheuritzel said.

Other improvements will include the expansion of the storage facilities to accommodate more boats and prevent the fleet from deteriorating on the lake, said Kennett. In addition, a brand new traditions room will be built into the lobby area of the boathouse to display rowing memorabilia, he said.

“We have [artifacts] that go back to the 1800s and right now they’re just collecting dust somewhere,” Gehman said, “We need to show alumni, recruits and current rowers that [they are] a part of something really special.”

Plans to fix the locker rooms and update the boathouses have been in the works since 1998, but a lack of funding has delayed construction until now. Additionally, President Skorton’s extension of the construction pause in 2008 required the rowing center to raise at least $6 million for the project before University approval could be granted, Brenner said.

Currently, the University has received a net present value of $7.776 million in commitments from alumni and parents for the boathouse renovations, said John Webster, director of alumni affairs and development for the Department of Athletics and Physical Education. According to Webster, $5.552 million of those commitments have been paid already.

“It’s pretty impressive that there are people out there who are able to donate in such stressful economic times,” Gehman said.

The department received $3.1 million between Nov. 2009 and Jan. 2010, but it has taken them three years to get to where they are now, Webster said.

With the design plans for the renovations completed, the University has allowed the project to move forward to the next stage. Bids from various construction companies will be reviewed over the next several weeks, said Brenner.

“We hope the estimates from our architects of what this project may cost are accurate, but we won’t be sure until the bids are received,” Brenner said.

Scheuritzel said new facilities would be a source of pride for the rowing program, especially when other competing universities like Harvard come to the University for races.

“It took us 12 years to get to this point so I’m still holding my breath to make sure the [renovations] happen,” said Kennett, “so it’s not over until the new boathouse is up.”

Original Author: Samantha Willner