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Crew team rejoices over new boathouse

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Former PLU crew member Joel Larson '98 says the new boathouse "will make getting up at 5 a.m. that much easier" for current and future rowers.

The PLU Crew has, for years, made the big time on the water. But throughout that success, the program has stored its boats and practiced out of an old, cramped building shared with the University of Puget Sound. Now the PLU Crew program steps up the big time with a nearly completed boathouse at Lakewood's Harry Todd Park on the shores of American Lake.
      The groundbreaking for the boathouse was last April, and the facility should be ready for occupancy this month (March). A dedication ceremony is scheduled for sometime this spring, according to Knut Olson '90, a member of the "Build a Boathouse" committee and himself a former PLU rower.
      The two-story boathouse covers 12,000 square feet. The lower floor, with its 18-foot ceiling, takes two-thirds of that area. It has five separate "bays," including one each for PLU, UPS and the Commencement Bay Rowing Club. A fourth bay will be set aside as a repair shop, and the fifth will be for master rowers and scullers. Each of the bays is an independent unit with its own security system. Most of the work in the bays has been finished, with the exception of boat storage racks, which are scheduled to be installed in the near future, Olson says.
      The 4,000-square-foot second floor, set to be completed when the necessary finances are raised, will include locker rooms and restrooms. Also featured will be a large, multi-use area designed for meetings of the local rowing community, an elevator and a workout space.
      "The nice thing about this new boathouse is it will make getting up at 5 a.m. that much easier," says Joel Larson '98, a former PLU varsity coxswain for three years. "The old facility had a small, gas-powered generator that ran two lights inside and one outside, barely enough to see where you were going. The new boathouse will provide enough shelter during rainy mornings and will be an escape for spectators during inclement weather."
      Olson cites the dedicated fund raising of the Commencement Bay Rowing Club and the "Build a Boathouse" committee, plus donations of time, equipment and materials by businesses and individuals, as the primary reasons for the project's near-fruition.

"We've made the most of the facilities that we've had, but a state-of-the-art rowing facility can't do anything but help our program."
--PLU Crew Coach Doug Nelson '90

      The building, Olson says, is the result of a community effort. A land-lease contract with Pierce County (which owned the property prior to the 1996 incorporation of the city of Lakewood) and a subsequent bank loan with locally owned Columbia Bank were procured by Commencement Bay Rowing Club members. The permit for the building, in addition to its design and construction, have been the work of Hanson, Hanson and Johnson, another local company with ties to the rowing community. Jamie Will, co-owner of Titus-Will Enterprises in Tacoma, and Dave Covey, co-owner of Business Interiors Northwest of Tacoma, are the fund-raising campaign co-chairs.
      Not including donated time and material, the entire project will be completed for less than $850,000. As of January 1998, the fund-raising campaign had garnered more than $667,000 through private donations, grants, foundations and matching funds.
      "The inside is not done," Olson says, noting the need for approximately $200,000 to finish the project. "That would get the building carpeted, painted, done." He adds that individuals interested in donating to the project can do so by calling 253-627-1000.
      The building is the culmination of a dream that has "probably been out there five or six years," says Olson. "We've been meeting two or three times a month as a fund-raising committee for just over two and a half years." Besides Olson, PLU's involvement on the committee includes current crew coach Doug Nelson '90, former coach Dave Peterson '74 and Jim Schacht '83. All four were first exposed to rowing as PLU student-athletes and are excited to see the boathouse's potential impact on increasing interest in their sport.
      "We've made the most of the facilities that we've had, but a state-of-the-art rowing facility can't do anything but help our program," Nelson says. "I predict it will make an instant impact on our current athletes to be in a home that meets the needs of a successful collegiate rowing program. It should also have a profound effect on the way we structure and run our practices, including the fluidity of launching crews.
      "We'll also have better warm-up facilities, instead of sitting on the gravel and stretching," Nelson says with a smile. "And in recruiting, I'm sure there are going to be some future benefits."
      While it's true that Tacoma-area rowers will benefit most from the realization of the dream, there also will be benefits to surrounding communities. "We want to get involved in more service-oriented rowing programs and summer camps," says Nelson, "and now we're going to have a facility to be able to do that."
      The building also will provide a side benefit for Lakewood. In recent years, Harry Todd Park had been closed both for financial and security reasons.
      "The park was, at one time, the pride of Tillicum," recalls Olson. "And it will be again, thanks to this boathouse and the great efforts of the city of Lakewood. We're helping the community take back its park."

Individuals interested in seeing the new boathouse -- and in watching the PLU crew in action -- will have two opportunities this spring. PLU and UPS compete in the annual Meyer/Lamberth Cup Races on Saturday, April 18. Then on Saturday, April 25, PLU hosts the annual Cascade Sprints Championships. Last year, the event attracted 10 teams, including approximately 1,000 rowers.

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