More than just a boathouse

Academics finds its way into the boathouse, acting as the Environmental Science program’s first designated space on campus.

By Brie Haro and Wilder Isom | October 26, 2022 3:42pm

UP's boathouse is set to open up to the rowing team on Oct. 30

Media Credit: Brie Haro / The Beacon

The University of Portland Women’s rowing team is excited to see UP as one of the few schools in the nation to have their own boathouse on campus. While the promise of the space has been said ever since the start of the 2019 school year, the reality is finally setting in for team captain, senior Emma Dolcini. 

“It has been kind of dangled in front of us for a long time,” Dolcini said. “But now that the dock has been put in, and that we got to go look at the boathouse and see the structural parts of it, it just kind of hit. And now it's actually really hitting for me.”

Head coach of the team, Gulliver Scott, is especially eager to be able to finally step foot on the boathouse after it has been in the works for 10 years. 

“It has been a long time coming,” Scott said. “It's a really unique opportunity and a lot of people are putting a lot of time and effort to actually get this facility built.”

Opening Oct. 30 for the rowing team, the new addition to the Franz River Campus — is not only an opportunity for the athletes but an opportunity for the students and professors as well. The building will house lab spaces for the College of Arts and Sciences and for the Environmental Science program alongside the rowing teams’ ergs and equipment. 

“It just presents another really great opportunity to connect students with the natural environment, the river environment and academic learning, being physically down on the River Campus,” Associate Vice President for Land Use and Planning, Jennie Cambier, said. 

Environmental studies professor Kristin Stewart has been seeing the environmental studies program grow at UP and is happy to see that they will be finally getting a space tailored for their curriculum on campus. One of the labs she is most looking forward to is a flume lab, a structure that mimics a river environment that will source water directly from the Willamette. 

“It's a model river,” Sweeney said. “... and so the water goes in one end, the sand and gravel go in the same end and then students and I can essentially stand on the side of the flume and actually observe the processes that are happening on the bottom of the river.”

Along with the flume lab, there will be spaces for biology students and professors. Labs will be equipped with microscopes and other equipment that will allow them to collect their samples and conduct their own research. 

The rowing team sees sharing the Boathouse with the rest of the UP community as an opportunity to connect with the school and other athletics teams. 

“We're really excited to be a bit more known and involved on campus because there has been a division, not on purpose, but just [because of] practicality and stuff,” Dolcini said. 

Being a DI team and not having a space to call your own is difficult. Currently, the rowing team is using the guest locker rooms in the Chiles Center and barely allows enough space to get ready. While it has worked for them in the past, it’s not spacious enough for a growing team. 

“It's super exciting to have our own facility to focus on rowing and not have to share with visiting teams,” Dolcini said. 

Getting an expansive locker room isn’t the only upgrade to their team dynamic, switching their practices from a lake to a river offers its own set of challenges. The changing current impacts their rowing techniques and strategies but there is also the fact that it’s a working waterway that needs to be considered. 

“There's a Coast Guard station right here,” Scott said. “There are barges that go up and down. There are pleasure boaters and kayakers and you know all kinds of folks just using the river and which is really not the case out of the lake.”

Cambier also notes that students will need special authorization to be able to be around the new dock for safety concerns because of the hazardous materials lurking at the bottom from the construction site. 

“There's a lot of cut pilings from the old dock that are remaining in the water,” Cambier said. “So I'm still sort of working through how we're gonna put up signs to discourage people [from using it recreationally].”

With some restrictions aside, Cambier is eager to see all students and community members of UP utilize this space and make it their own. However, like most projects going on around campus, there have been some supply chain issues and delays, making the wait time a little longer than expected. She is grateful for the contractors doing the best they can to get this building up as soon as possible and thinks the rest of the school will be pleased with the layout and architecture of the building itself. 

“It is a big building,” Cambier said. “But I think the architectural team did a good job of breaking it down and bringing the scale down. So it's gonna feel like a really nice comfortable space for people to walk into.”

The dormer windows let the sun shine in on the exposed wood within the building, shedding light to another resource available to students and athletes — breaking down the barrier between athletics and academics. 

Brie Haro is the Editor-in-Chief of The Beacon and can be reached at

Wilder Isom is the Sports Editor of The Beacon and can be reached at