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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Rowing facility under way

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Ground broken on new boathouse

About 100 KU leaders and students gathered at Burcham Park this afternoon to break ground on a new rowing boathouse.

Amid blowing winds and snow flurries, Kansas University leaders broke ground on a new building to protect student athletes from such elements.

The KU Rowing Boathouse, expected to cost $6 million and take about 10 months to construct, will be the new home for the KU varsity rowing team and the men's and women's club teams.

"I think this is a tribute to people believing rowing is going to be an important part of the athletic future of the University of Kansas for a long time," KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said. "And I think the best way for us to show that is to build this boathouse."

The boathouse will be in Burcham Park and has been designed to withstand any floodwater that may spill over the banks from the nearby Kansas River.

Though the snow and cold wind caused many people in the crowd to shift on their feet and cram hands deep into pockets, KU athletic director Lew Perkins said it was the appropriate weather for starting construction on the boathouse.

"For 13 years, our rowers have had to come down here in the snow, the rain and the cold. Now I think everyone understands why we need to have a boathouse," Perkins said.

The boathouse has not been without controversy, specifically over the source of funding. Two years ago, students approved a $15 fee for the rowing boathouse; however, a proposal to rescind the funding was narrowly defeated.

On Friday, athletic department leaders repeatedly thanked the student body for its commitment to funding the boathouse and also to point out that members of the club crew team - open to all KU students - also would be using the boathouse.

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