NEW BOATHOUSE FAQ
With the activities of racing, regattas, special events and everyday rowing always keeping our membership busy, it’s easy to forget that Austin Rowing Club’s home for the past 23 years is scheduled to be torn down and rebuilt starting this winter. Town Lake Rowing Center, the limestone boathouse/clubhouse facility on Lady Bird Lake, was conceived by Austin Rowing Club members and privately built in 1987 as part of the San Jacinto Center/Four Seasons Hotel development. Austin Rowing Club members brokered the donation of the boathouse/clubhouse and its accompanying land to the City of Austin as a gift from the hotel developers.
Below you will find the Frequently Asked Questions list for the new boathouse project.
Q: Why is the boathouse being torn down?
A: The Waller Creek Tunnel Project, which proposes to provide flood control for several blocks of valuable downtown Austin property, will alter the geography of the mouth of Waller Creek directly behind the boathouse/clubhouse facility. The boathouse/clubhouse structures stand in the path of this major public works project. Mitigation laws require the tunnel developer to replace any structures condemned by the tunnel project, including the Town Lake Rowing Center boathouse/clubhouse facility. The tunnel project also requires a modest pumphouse structure at the tunnel outlet on Lady Bird Lake, so the new boathouse will incorporate this necessary feature.
Q: Doesn’t this mean both the boathouse and the clubhouse will be torn down?
A: In the first stage of the development, only the boathouse will be torn down, to make room for the new 5-bay, two-story boathouse. The clubhouse will remain standing and operational throughout the new boathouse construction, allowing for continued use of the bathrooms, erg room and office. The new boathouse construction includes new bathrooms, expanded erg room and office space on its second floor. Once the new boathouse construction is complete, all rowing club operations will move to the new facility and the old clubhouse will be torn down.
Q: What is the timeline for this project?
A: Demolition of the current boathouse will occur as early as December 15, 2010, but could be subject to delays into 2011. Contractors will begin the new boathouse construction as soon as possible and have been given incentives to complete the new boathouse by spring 2012, with an opening ceremony scheduled for May or June of 2012.
Q: Will we still be able to row during the demolition and new boathouse construction?
A: Yes, Austin Rowing Club will continue to operate throughout the construction process. Regular rowing, Introduction to Rowing Classes, visiting crews, regattas and special events will all continue.
Q: Where will the boats go during the new boathouse construction?
A: The open field behind the clubhouse has sufficient space, through the use of A-frame boat racks, to host the entire fleet of club boats and privately owned boats. Considerations for wind, rain, hail, freezing precipitation, flooding, sun exposure, vandalism and theft have been made in the design of the temporary storage facility. Careful attention has also been focused on ease of boat access, carrying and racking procedures, appropriate lighting and damage prevention in the temporary storage facility. The temporary storage facility will be covered and fenced, with security gates, lighting and access to water for washing boats. Crews will carry boats to and from the temporary storage facility via a path along the shore from the docks to the field behind the boathouse. The pathways and ground in the temporary storage facility will be graded and prepared for safe foot traffic.
Q: When will the boats be moved to the temporary storage facility, and can I help?
A: Boats will most likely be moved in early December, and yes, members will be needed to volunteer to help move equipment, but that move is dependent on the temporary storage facility being built and outfitted first. The construction of the temporary storage facility in the field behind the clubhouse will be the best indicator to our membership that a move out of the old boathouse is imminent.
Q: Is there a chance the new boathouse will not be built, or that Austin Rowing Club may not be the designated tenant?
A: The entire Waller Creek Tunnel Project, costing $127 million, depends on the boathouse reconstruction to be complete before the main tunnel construction can proceed. The funding for the project was approved in bond elections as early as 1998 and the project is fully funded. The $3 million new boathouse is funded by the project, which itself is ultimately funded through future property tax revenues from the increased future value of land in the Waller Creek flood zone serviced by the tunnel. Given the size and scope of the new boathouse construction, the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department requested proposals for the opportunity to operate the new boathouse. Austin Rowing Club and Texas Rowing Center were the only bidders for this opportunity. Austin Rowing Club’s comprehensive proposal, which was developed by a talented team from our membership, offers unmatched diversity of activity and access to the new boathouse for all users of Lady Bird Lake, and we are very confident of our future in the new boathouse facility. The management of the new boathouse could be decided by City Council as early as December.
TOP 10 MYTHS: NEW BOATHOUSE & AUSTIN ROWING CLUB
MYTH: The recession is so bad right now, the tunnel project and new boathouse won’t be built because the city has no money.
FACT: The Waller Creek Tunnel Project is already funded and supported by a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district which will be in place for 20 years. The future value of property within the TIF district, in the form of property taxes, will fund the project. The TIF was created in 2007, with initial bond elections voted and passed in 1998 for $25 million in startup funds.
MYTH: The city shouldn’t be paying $3 million of taxpayer money for a new boathouse just for 400 rowers.
FACT: No city funds are being used to fund the new boathouse construction. The TIF district, which funds the Waller Creek Tunnel Project with future property tax revenues from the Waller Creek District, guarantees that the private developers who own and develop the land will fund the tunnel for the next 20 years. Austin Rowing Club’s operations model for the new boathouse broadens access to the facility to thousands of potential users through expanded activities and diverse opportunities for facility use.
MYTH: The boathouse won’t be rebuilt once it’s torn down–don’t trust the tunnel developer or the city!
FACT: Mitigation laws require the replacement or reconstruction of any property displaced or destroyed in the development of projects such as the Waller Creek Tunnel Project.
MYTH: Life without the old limestone boathouse is unimaginable–the club won’t be able to function without it.
FACT: The entire array of activities–daily rowing, regattas, visiting crews–are already scheduled, budgeted and planned. Every detail has been carefully considered and provided for, with a minimum sacrifice of convenience to our membership. Expect to continue to enjoy rowing!
MYTH: This process of deciding who gets the new boathouse has been going on for years–it’s taking too long!
FACT: The Request for Proposals was released March 15, 2010, and the proposals were due April 28, 2010. Since that time, the proposals have been in review and interviews of the candidate organizations have been conducted. Because of the need for city personnel to deliberate without outside influence, a “period of silence” is in effect where neither bidding organization can communicate with the City of Austin on the matter of the proposal, other than to request a progress report on the decision making process. We hope to hear from City Council as early as December 2010.
MYTH: The new boathouse was already awarded and Austin Rowing Club is not the tenant.
FACT: As of November 2010, the tenant of the new boathouse has not been chosen. When the new boathouse tenant selection becomes a City Council agenda item, you can assume that calls for support from Austin Rowing Club membership will be made to show our collective interest and concern at the City Council meeting.
MYTH: Rumor has it that Austin Rowing Club is bankrupt, having spent all its money on new boats and the new boathouse proposal.
FACT: This is simply false and a result of misinformation or someone’s imagination. Available for review upon request, Austin Rowing Club’s budget and balance sheet reflects no debt and the complete solvency of the club, utterly lacking liability and strong with assets. Several lines of credit have been extended by banks for our future use. Our fundraising campaign for the transitional period leading up to the new boathouse completion is underway and taking membership donations, and several grant applications promise to yield funds for special programs.
MYTH: The boats will go away if Austin Rowing Club is not awarded the new boathouse.
FACT: Austin Rowing Club, as a non-profit organization, owns the boats, docks, ergs and all other assets related to rowing at ARC–and those assets will always be a part of the club and accessible to our membership.
MYTH: Austin Rowing Club and Texas Rowing Center will share the new boathouse.
FACT: Austin Rowing Club’s existing fleet of equipment, combined with the space requirements of future boathouse vendor partners and planned purchases in the next five years, completely fills the new boathouse to capacity with some boats still being stored outside. Negotiations between Austin Rowing Club and Texas Rowing Center did occur, with city officials acting as mediators and witnesses. During those negotiations, no agreement could be reached on a practical plan for both ARC and TRC to share the new boathouse. Even with a modest rate of growth, Austin Rowing Club’s proposal for the new boathouse demonstrates how our non-profit will exercise every opportunity and square foot of space to provide the broadest access to potential users and the greatest opportunity for our diverse boathouse vendor partners.
MYTH: Austin Rowing Club has been using the old boathouse for free all these years and won’t be able to afford the new boathouse.
FACT: Though Austin Rowing Club’s current contract with the City of Austin does not specify any rent for use of the facility, understanding that the entire facility exists as a result of the organizational and fundraising efforts of Austin Rowing Club members and private, corporate donations of time, money, land and the buildings themselves helps to explain why this situation exists. Of equal importance is the fact that while ARC’s contract with the City of Austin names the city as responsible for maintenance of the facilities, Austin Rowing Club has been diligently maintaining the boathouse since it opened, shouldering the cost of repairs from its own budget, at no cost to the city.