Press Release
October 19, 2013

Chicago Park District and Community Partners Celebrate Grand Opening of New Boat House at Clark Park

The Second of Four New Boat Houses Will Offer Public Rowing Programs for Youth and Adults
Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

Mayor Emanuel and Community Partners Cut the Ribbon at New Clark Park Boat House

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Park District Superintendent Michael P. Kelly, State Senate President John Cullerton, Alderman Ameya Pawar (47th ward), representatives of the Chicago Rowing Foundation, and community members today celebrated the grand opening of the new WMS boat house at Clark Park, 3400 N. Rockwell Ave. Designed and built by Studio Gang Architects, the state-of-the-art WMS boat house opened as part of the Chicago Rowing Foundation’s ROWtoberfest Regatta that featured races from middle and high school students as well as collegiate athletes. 

“Today we celebrate the opening of the second boathouse that will substantially increase recreational activities for children and adults as well as take advantage of all the Chicago River has to offer,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “The Clark Park boathouse will provide a wide range of programs, add competitive rowing as a sport for nearby schools, and offer canoeing, kayaking and rowing programs for all ages and abilities.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has set a goal of making the Chicago River the city’s next recreational frontier, with four new boathouses throughout the city serving as anchors of the river’s future development.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provided nearly $1 million in grant funds to help clean up the river and spur job creation.  The Clark Park Boathouse is the second of the four boathouses to be built. The Ping Tom Boathouse located at the edge of the Chinatown and South Loop neighborhoods opened last June.

"I'm proud to partner with Mayor Emanuel on all the improvements we are making to Clark Park,” said Alderman Ameya Pawar, 47th ward. “This boat house is a shining example of the Mayor's vision to make the Chicago River a recreation destination.”

“The Chicago Park District already oversees recreational opportunities along the lakefront, making the Chicago River a natural next step,” said General Superintendent and CEO of the Chicago Park District Michael P. Kelly.  “We are excited to grow the sport of rowing throughout Chicago for all ages.”

The completion of the WMS Boathouse at Clark Park exemplifies the City's commitment to renewing its waterfront but also to investing in its youth,” said Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects.  “The building provides a stimulating and fun space where young people from all over the city can participate in sport and develop important life skills. In this way, the building’s design, inspired by the rhythmic motion of rowing, parallels the forward momentum of efforts to revitalize the river while supporting the vitality of urban communities.”

"We are proud to call the WMS Boathouse our new home,” said Betsy Trevarthen, Executive Director of Development and Communication for the Chicago Rowing Foundation. “We are privileged to partner with the Chicago Park District in providing community programming, including learn-to-row sessions both in tanks and on the river, youth and masters rowing teams, ergometer ("erg") training, and even rowing-inspired yoga classes! CRF also offers adaptive rowing, giving individuals with physical or intellectual disabilities the ability to row. We welcome both novice and seasoned rowers to be part of the spirited revitalization of the Chicago River."

The Chicago Park District is partnering with the Chicago Rowing Foundation for youth rowing opportunities at the boat house.  The group will serve as instructors to Chicago Park District campers each summer, host community learn-to-row events, and facilitate the programming participation of students representing 29 high schools and 36 middle schools in rowing.

Nearby Lane Tech High School has established rowing as a club sport and these student athletes will join the Chicago Rowing Foundation as an official Chicago Public School club.  Lane Tech freshmen physical education classes will also rotate through the Chicago Rowing Foundation programs to introduce more students to the sport.

In addition, the Chicago Park District and its partners will offer programs for various ages and abilities, including middle school and adult rowers classes, a program for cognitively impaired rowers, canoe and kayaking lessons and tours, equipment rental, family nature programming and more.

The Clark Park Boat House is an approximately 22,620 square foot rowing training and boat storage facility. The building consists of a two story mechanically heated and cooled building and a one story tempered boat storage building and a floating boat launch dock in the Chicago River. The two  story building houses row tank space, ergometer work out space that accommodates approximately 36 ‘erg’ machines, a community room, main office and restrooms with shower facilities. The one story boat storage building will have kayak and canoe vendor storage, a vendor office and restroom, and a clear span boat storage space to store approximately 50 rowing shells and support equipment.

The Clark Park boathouse building costs $8.8 million and includes $3.2 million in private funding, including $2 million from WMS, $1 million from North Park University, and $200,000 from the Chicago Rowing Foundation, and $1 million matched by Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th ward)from TIF. 

Remaining boathouses to be built under the program include sites at River Park which will open in 2014 and Park #561 at Eleanor St. and 28th St. expected to open in 2015.

The sites were chosen to line up with improvements the Chicago Department of Transportation is making to extend trails along the river, providing easier and more consistent river access for runners, bikers, and walkers. The boathouses will each contain a concession facility and will serve both as access points and attractions along the river.

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Photo Caption: Mayor Emanuel and Community Partners Cut the Ribbon at New Clark Park Boat House

Photo Credit: Brooke Collins // City of Chicago