A £1million project is set to keep rowers in Leeds on the crest of the wave created by the sport’s stunning Olympic success.
Construction of a new boathouse for oarsmen and women from Leeds University and Leeds Rowing Club started with a ground-breaking ceremony next to the River Aire in Stourton yesterday.
The new facility aims to increase participation in the sport and help to satisfy the demand generated by the successful 2012 Olympic Games.
Chairman of Leeds Rowing Club David Saul said: “We are a young, vibrant and growing club, so we are desperately in need of larger and more modern facilities to cope with the demand generated by the increased interest in rowing following the Olympic Games.
“Our club is currently bursting with enthusiastic members, and we have a waiting list for those wanting to try the sport of the first time. This new facility will allow us to continue to grow as a club and continue to provide a great experience for rowers of all ages and social backgrounds.”
Rowing has enjoyed a huge boost in popularity after Team GB enjoyed their most successful Olympic Games ever at London 2012, winning nine medals.
The project in Stourton will include a boat store, training and changing facilities, community space, car parking and direct access to a 4km stretch of the Aire and Calder Navigation Canal.
Alan Meegan, of British Rowing Facilities, said Leeds was seen as one of three key areas in the UK to develop rowing.
“We have recognised that there is enormous potential in the region to develop the sport of rowing, and we are delighted to be involved with this facility,” he added.
Rob Wadsworth, head of sport at the university, said: “The boathouse is a huge boost to the development of rowing at the University of Leeds, and the city of Leeds and its catchments. “
The clubs are now looking for businesses and other interested parties to help develop the dry side and community facilities while the contractors are on site this summer.
In another boost for watersports in Leeds, youngsters from the City of Leeds Diving Team showed their Olympic potential with an impressive performance at a national competition.
The teenagers returned from the Great Britain National Cup with 15 medals, including seven golds.
See p32 for the full story.