The University of Portland rowing team, The Bluff’s youngest Division I sports program, doesn’t have any one space on campus that they can call their own. But that won’t be the case for much longer.
The team launched a crowdfunding campaign last month as part of the university’s first annual “All Hands on Deck” campaign— a campus-wide effort to donate money back to UP— to raise $25,000 to go towards a new boathouse on the River Campus. With the completed project, Portland would join the University of Washington as the only universities on the West Coast to have a boathouse within walking distance of its campus.
Rowing head coach Pasha Spencer says ideally the new boathouse would be completed by next summer.
“I think one of the important things about having a boathouse on campus is that the girls have that relationship with campus, that it ties them into the campus community better,” Spencer said in a video promoting the campaign.
The 40-day campaign, set to end on May 7, is not the first time the rowing program has put on a fundraiser for the future boathouse. The team would host small indoor rowing competitions to raise money starting two years ago. But this year, with the backing of UP’s athletic department and campus development efforts, the project has become a more public affair.
Through 33 days of campaigning, the team has already exceeded their target. $25,085 has been raised with 162 supporters. Spencer says the team would typically have around 23 supporters for their fundraising efforts to reach goals of $20,000 and under in previous years.
“I think our success with the fundraiser (this year) shows what happens at UP when people come together for a common cause, and our common cause is helping each other as a community,” Spencer told The Beacon in an email.
This year, crew members have created personal appeals for donations through the team’s partnership with ‘USEED,’ an online crowdfunding platform, and are encouraged to reach out to family and friends via email for electronic contributions. USEED has also helped the rowing program to reach out directly to some of the university’s biggest donors for support, a huge lift considering that with just 35 total alumni, the team doesn’t typically have the resources to tap into for extra funding.
“Because we’re only in our sixth year as a varsity (Division I) sport, we don’t have a huge donor base to support and build this endowment for our team,” Spencer said.
UP Rowing is one of seven programs in Portland that calls the Portland Boathouse— a community property downtown that is about a 20 minute drive from campus— their current home. The lease for the boathouse ends in June of 2019 and all tenants will have to be out of the property by then, Spencer says. This made it important for the program to look to the developing space on the River Campus to be the team’s new home.
Spencer added that she is unsure how much money the program will have when construction ‘hopefully’ starts next summer. $100,000 would allow the team to build a light steel garage on the River Campus. The essentials would include isolated boat bays with rolling racks for the boats and space to expand.
Sophomore crew member Megan Del Pozzi says an ideal on-campus boathouse would also include an erg room with mirrors. The team currently uses a studio room in the Beauchamp Center for their land rowing workouts.
“For rowing, specifically, it’s really important to (be able) to see yourself and your technique,” Del Pozzi said.
Senior Maddy Bettinger-Lobash mentioned that a weight space for doing rowing-specific lifts would be a benefit in the new rowing center, too. The Chiles Center weight room doesn’t have the equipment for bench pulls so the team has to use the community boathouse for those.
“We have to constantly haul (the equipment) out and haul them back in and put them together, so having a designated weight room space where we can do the certain things we do as rowers would just be very beneficial,” Bettinger-Lobash said.
Spencer says one of the reasons why the team practices at 6 a.m. during the week is to avoid the Portland traffic in the morning. Having the boathouse right on campus would allow the team the flexibility to change their practice schedule, which would not only allow for more rest and recover time for the crew members, but would also enable better accommodation of their academic requirements.
But even more than the benefits and conveniences it would offer, a boathouse on campus would give the team a sense of ownership. The team’s locker room in Chiles, for instance, is frequently used by opposing teams that visit the Bluff. There aren’t enough lockers and showers in it to accommodate all 35 crew members.
“There’s no place on campus that we can call our space so I think (a boathouse on campus) would really just help build the team (culture),” Del Pozzi said.
UP rowing has been a Division I program competing in the West Coast Conference for the last six years, and prior to that, it was a club team. But Bettinger-Lobash says she had an encounter with a student this year who thought the team was still a club. She describes the experience as a “slap to the face.”
As a graduating senior this year, she won’t get to see the on-campus rowing center come to fruition as a crew member. But she’s hopeful that the future boathouse will cement the rowing program’s place on campus along with the other Division I teams.
“It would just be really satisfying to have a place to call our own so that we can be recognized as athletes just like other athletes on campus,” Bettinger-Lobash said.