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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Despite club sports deal Brandeis crew team to lose boathouse

Published: March 23, 2007
Section: News

Despite alleged promises from Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Jean Eddy and Director of Athletics Sheryl Sousa, the Brandeis University club crew team is about to lose its boathouse. While according to crew team President Sarah Robinson 07 the team only needs a place to store the six boats we own and a body of water to row on, the matter is much more complicated than it seems.

Robinson explained, the boathouse we currently row out of is run by CRI (Community Rowing Incorporated) but during the winter its a skating rink in Newton. Robinson further explained that the boathouse has been bought and it will now be a year-round ice rink. CRI is building their own boathouse on the same property but they dont have the funds to accommodate all the clubs that rent space from them [currently]. She added, CRI wanted to build a multi-million dollar boathouse for everyone with rooms for machines and equipment, [but] none of the clubs who row out of their space can afford that, so [CRI] is building a smaller boathouse.

Robinson described the tremendous financial burden of crew: we have a lot of fund-raisers, and theyre all successful, but our sport is incredibly expensive. We have to raise over half of our operating funds, and we all pay dues. While the Finance Board pays for the coachs salary, the team spends money on equipment, insurance, race entry fees, and US Rowing fees, which Robinson describes as the end-all be-all rowing organization in the United States. Equipment is particularly expensive, as a new boat can cost upwards of $14,000 and a new oar can cost upwards of $250, according to Crew Vice President Brett Wu 07. After all of those expenses, Robinson explained that there is no money left over for a boathouse.

Wu, who is in charge of fund-raising for the team, described the many ways the team raises funds. Every semester the team runs five or six fund-raiser events, Wu explained. These include exam care packages and rowing machine marathons, called ergathons. The team had also explored options including staffing concession stands for Boston College sporting events and advertising for Dominos pizza on campus. This year, Wu said, the team will have its first-ever team car wash.

Two years ago, Robinson explained, [Brandeis] was given the opportunity to buy into a new boathouse at a cost of a million dollars. Our club cant afford that. Crew is a club sport. Thus, unlike varsity basketball or soccer, its not the universitys responsibility to find space for us. They had no responsibility to spend a million dollars on us. We knew that it wasnt going to happen.

While the university is not obligated to find a boathouse for the crew team, Robinson said that the teams coach, Ellen Downes, has met with administrators to try to find a boathouse anyway. Coach Downes explained in an email, I've met with administrators who have been incredibly helpful and supportive. They have committed a great deal of time and resources to a problem that is actually outside of the scope of their direct responsibilities. I think they are getting much closer to a solution and there is no way we could be this close without the hard work they have done. Despite her satisfaction with the administrators she referenced, Downes did not feel comfortable disclosing the names of any administrators with whom she spoke.

Downes described, the possible solutions the university could explore. There are a few ways that Brandeis could solve this problem, including renting space from another school and building a boathouse on riverfront land the University owns. No solution is going to be simple and they each carry their own complications. Cost is the most challenging factor. The rowing team, as it now stands under Student Activities, could never afford to pay the rent at another school's boathouse or to build a new structure. In addition, new construction would require permitting and community approval which could take years. Downes added that most other crew teams in the Boston area are varsity and have funding through their athletic department.

Though Downes has been in contact with university administrators, the members of the crew team have not. According to Robinson, we were told that the students shouldnt be directly involved.

Wu said this was a point of frustration for the team. As far as the team goes, its just frustrating because its an issue of major importance. Wed like to be involved. Wu added, were interested in making sure [the administration] finds a solution that will work to our benefit as opposed to a shed in a random part of the river. Wu is particularly interested in location, as the teams current boathouse is very convenient for races. The advantage of our current space is we dont have to drive our boats to races. I hope the school will take that into account, he said.

When asked if the crew team could rent space from another boathouse, Robinson explained that such a solution is unlikely. Boathouse space on the Charles [River] is pretty scarce. Places are either full or overfull, she said. Its come to a crucial point in finding a solution for next year, Robinson added, when were done on May 12, that could be the last day of rowing at Brandeis.

Downes echoed Robinsons sense of urgency. In her email she said, right now we need a short term solution so that there is a place for the team to row next September. It would be even better if that solution could also be for the long term. If were not able to find a place to row for the fall, the team would probably have to take a season off until a space can be found. Optimistically she added, hopefully well be able to avoid that sobering possibility.

Wu and crew team member Rachel Corke 09 are indeed sobered by the possibility of not finding a boathouse. If the team is unable to find a boathouse Wu said, you would have a lot of motivated people who wouldnt be able to row and equipment that wouldnt be able to be used. Corke commented, crew is a lot of our lives. If we have no boathouse, we have no team.