With new facility, Gainesville Area Rowing hopes to boost sport

eda engineers and surveyors are proud to have worked on this Gainesville Area Rowing project. Our engineers designed and permitted the site plan and surveying services included boundary resolution and performing a topographic survey to support the engineering design. Our Director of Surveying even provided expert testimony in court regarding the location of a disputed property line. eda is very proud to have contributed services for this local project!

“The club’s new digs will be at an old fish camp, and club leaders believe the new facility will help them greatly expand rowing’s popularity in the Gainesville area.”

By Justin Ford Correspondent

As storm clouds threatened and steady rain rolled in, fishermen and strollers at Powers Park rolled out, leaving the glassy surface of Newnan’s Lake to Gainesville Area Rowing’s master class. Rain or shine, the rowing club has been operating out of Powers Park since construction began mid-August for a brand new and better-provisioned rowing facility on Newnan’s Lake. The new facility is replacing the old headquarters at 151 SE 74th St., which the club sold to the University of Florida.

Anonymous donors, small and large, provided the $500,000 raised for the first phase of construction, which is expected to exceed that amount, including the land acquisition and the engineering.

The new center, previously McGilvray’s Fish Camp, 7406 SE 2nd Ave., a once-fond spot for Gainesville anglers, will now be dedicated to training rowers of all ages and increasing the sport’s accessibility in North Central Florida.

Masters coach Jacob Landauer, who has been rowing since 2006 when he was in the eighth grade, said he and the team look forward to the center’s completion, the opportunities it brings and the expansion of the sport.

For some, like Amanda Ogle, 30, an ex-rugby player for Florida State University, rowing is a way for her to stay active in a team sport without putting so much stress on her body.

For Landauer, competition is his motivation.

“We’re at the start of a new season right now, moving into the fall, so we’ll do our long head races (5,000 meters). Our first race is coming up in a couple of weeks. I’ll be competing more this season.”

Since the rowing club’s beginning in 1998, it has seen success as both an influential organizer in the community and as a competitor, qualifying for the USA Youth National Crew Championships in its first year and bringing home gold in the Florida Scholastic Rowing Association at both the state and regional levels in 2016.

Don Davis, a member of the board of directors for Friends of Gainesville Area Rowing, said the new rowing center is inspired by the world-class facility in Sarasota at Nathan Benderson Park, an Olympic-style venue “that would probably equal anything else in the U.S.”

In 2017, Nathan Benderson Park will host the World Rowing Championships, from Sept. 23 to Oct. 1.

“That’s huge,” Davis said. “This facility and the construction of ours in Gainesville reflects the growth in the sport of rowing in the South.”

Davis expects the new rowing center to generate excitement in the community for the sport.

Gainesville will now have two rowing facilities, the newest with a viewing pier for spectators and an expanded floating dock to allow more rowing boats to be launched and recovered at the same time.

A number of middle and high school athletes from Gainesville and surrounding areas already participate in crew due to the rowing club, and of 20 alumni, six have received full or partial rowing scholarships and more than 10 are now rowing in college.

“The sport of rowing, for the general athletic population, provides a better chance of getting a scholarship — 17 percent greater than say, football or basketball,” Davis said.

Rowing club members see the new facility as a chance to boost those opportunities.

“It will allow more people to get involved,” rowing director and head coach Cory Conzemius said, “and more possibilities for the sport to grow in Gainesville and hopefully [we can] hold more events.”

Possible events include spring and winter training for high school and collegiate level athletes from across the region.

Conzemius said the club will be able to host more and various regattas at the new facility, while also drawing in a larger coaching staff to help athletes, whose numbers he expects to rise.

Rain and a distant rumble did not deter the adult class “Tech Rec Row” from another day in the water — a class focused on technique and a moderate pace to encourage newcomers to the sport, coached by the veteran Landauer.

“The water is beautiful,” said Sandra Khun, 21, a full-time employee at the Mobile Outreach Clinic and member of the GAR Masters. “Our practice is six days a week, I try to come to as many as possible.”

The new rowing facility is expected to be operational in January 2017.

For more information about Gainesville Area Rowing, visit their website and view their brochure at http://gainesvillearearowing.com.