Row, row, row your boat. Could have stopped at just one, because you don’t have to tell us twice.
Bainbridge Island loves rowing. At every level, across age range and genders, the Rock is in love with the sport and island teams have routinely brought home big wins from competitions near and far.
Soon, though, Bainbridge rowers will have a little more home to bring the gold back to.
A groundbreaking ceremony marked the official start of construction on the new Bainbridge Island Rowing Center in Waterfront Park Friday, July 1. This first critical stage of construction, expected to be completed by the end of the summer, will include demolition of the existing tennis court — the makeshift boatyard where Bainbridge Island Rowing has long stored boats and practice gear — grading, installation of underground utilities, mass excavation and construction of foundation walls and placing steel and slab for the first floor. When done, the club will use the slab as an interim home base until the next phase of construction can begin.
The start of the project is the first step toward ultimately creating a legitimate home for the popular sport on Bainbridge and further encouraging an interest in rowing among younger and new potential rowers, said Bainbridge Island Rowing president Jennifer Ames-Karreman.
“It means after 15 years of being in operation we finally have a home, a permanent home,” she said. “The city gave us a place, but we have 26 boats now. We started with one.”
Ames-Karreman attributes the sport’s growth and popularity on Bainbridge (the program enrolls more than 200 athletes in the spring season) to several mutually beneficial factors.
“It’s one of the only sports that is a true team,” she said. “People have to be selfless.
“Everybody’s rowing and when they get their swing, that’s when it’s the most gratifying.”
Also, she explained, rowing is a potentially lifelong sport for a dedicated athlete. The club’s members range between the age of 14 and 83.
“It’s a multi-generational sport,” Ames-Karreman said. “That’s very attractive, and obviously we’re all very attracted to the water surrounding us.
“In the age of technology, when we’re all on our screens, getting outside, getting into the water, is a really wonderful thing.”
The rowing center will provide the group with an indoor space to train as well as locker rooms and safe, dry storage for boats, oars and safety equipment and will also include a multi-purpose room which will feature harbor views that can be used by the community for meetings or special events.
It will go a long way to protecting the investment the group has made in gear for its growing roster of athletes, Ames-Karreman said.
“We buy used boats, but we’re exposed to the sun, the snow, [and] the saltwater corrodes the metal,” she explained. “It’s a lot of work to keep it up. Our kids come down here when it’s 42 degrees, in the rain. Having a roof over our heads makes it more accessible to different rowers.”
Bruce Beall, the club’s director of rowing, said the prized location is key for effective rowing practices.
“It’s a short walk to Eagle Harbor, our home course, which is the best protected waterway on the island, so it’s ideal for training,” he said.
The Rowing Center will be owned, operated and maintained by Bainbridge Island Rowing, a nonprofit, under the terms of the lease agreement with the city. The agreement is a private-public partnership similar to the city’s arrangement with the Bainbridge Performing Arts building located in central downtown Winslow.
Fundraising efforts remain ongoing to ensure completion of the new center. Visit www.bainbridgerowingcenter.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about the club’s programs and achievements and also to donate.