It’s a chilly, foggy Sunday morning on the Scioto River 2.5 miles west of campus. While their fellow students are home snoozing, Ohio State’s varsity rowers are gathering in the team room of their new boathouse.
Coach Andy Teitelbaum has arrived early and is reviewing footage from the previous day’s races on the flatscreen TV. The rowers take a seat on floor in front of him and gaze up at screen. It’s 8 a.m. They got to sleep in today, weekday practices begin at 6 a.m. Teitelbaum congratulates the athletes on their wins against Rhode Island, Louisville, Iowa and Bucknell. The team is 21-36 races and ranked 10th in the country.
For his praise he is applauded but the mood in the room remains somber, as if to say yesterday’s victories are an accomplishment to be noted but there is still more work to do. In less than a month the Buckeyes aim to claim another Big Ten Championship.
The team warms up and heads downstairs to the boat bay to take the boats to the water and begin the workout. Teitelbaum zips up a Mustang suit, much like a thick one-piece snowsuit, climbs into a motorboat and follows the rowers out to the middle of the river. He holds a megaphone to his mouth and instructs the crew. The sun is out but the sky is still gray.
At about 11 a.m. the boats pull up to the dock. The red-faced rowers step out onto the dock, lift the 54-foot, 200-pound shells out of the water, and carry them on their shoulders back up to the boathouse. This is a new scene for them, in March they were rowing out of a steel pole barn located just meters from their new location. The team moved into a new $5.2 million building during spring break.
“I did not realize the impact it was going to have on our program,” Teitelbaum said. “It has touched every aspect of Ohio State women’s rowing. Everything is better. It has improved our ability to recruit and the quality of training available to the team.”
Teitelbaum has been the coach since the team went varsity in 1995.
“We can now visually display our history, the teams and the people of the past,” Teitelbaum said, referring to the photographs hanging in the entrance. “This gives our athletes context — they appreciate the excellence of past crews — and gives them the ability to imagine having their picture up there, leaving their mark for people to see.”
Teitelbaum said time is saved now that they are centralized in a building designed as a boathouse. Repairs can be made more efficiently. The time to get boats on and off the water has been halved. There are meeting rooms and offices.
“We no longer have to choose between conversation and heat,” Teitelbaum said.
“It’s like we went from rags to riches,” senior Erika Benford said. “Now we have a locker room and running water.”
“It’s about 20 degrees. We’d come in and we’d all be shuffled around one little heater,” Prescott said. “We looked like a pack of sardines in there.”
Benford said the added comforts are only the beginning, “It’s easier to do what we need to do to improve; now we have the tools to be the best.”
As excellent as the new boathouse is, Benford wants future crews to remember where they came from and how lucky they are to have such great facilities.
The boathouse is owned and run by the city of Columbus. The Buckeyes share space with Greater Columbus Rowing Association and Recreation and Parks will host programs there in the summer. It is also a public Wi-Fi hotspot.
“We are more connected with the community now. Hopefully we will see more people becoming aware of rowing and taking interest,” Benford said.
The two-story boathouse is 24,400 square feet. The ground floor is divided into six bays to store rowing boats, kayaks, canoes and other equipment. Upstairs are window-lined offices, carpeted meeting rooms, balconies over-looking the water, lockerrooms, and laundry facilities. The large window at the end of the entranceway is adorned with a Block “O” decal designed to cast its shadow across the floor. Rows of framed photographs of past crews line the hallway and hang from high ceilings.
OSU Boatman Joseph Pipia oversees care of the team’s equipment. He watched boathouse planning and construction from beginning to end.
“Environmental concerns were considered in building construction. Countertops are made of compressed banana plants, which are a waste product of the banana industry,” he said. “There is also a rain garden used to responsibly deal with the roof’s runoff.”
Pipia said the boathouse is considered a landmark of Duranceaux Park.
The Buckeyes’ next race is against Michigan and Michigan State at 9 a.m. Saturday the Scioto River.