Rowing tank doesn’t work out

A favorite feature on the school’s admission tour will disappear over the summer when the rowing tank will be cemented over and transformed into a cardio room.

The tank has been part of the crew program since the Nicholas Athletic Center (NAC) was built in 1998, but recognition that it only serves four athletes at a time when space in the NAC is limited has prompted plans for its destruction.

“The tank is a good tool for the rowers, but the idea is to find portable equipment that can serve the same purpose and take up less space,” Athletic Director Chuck Richard said.

The cardio room will be equipped with rowing machines, treadmills, and bikes, he reported. Weights will not be permitted so that, in addition to availability for sport meetings, yoga classes, and stretching before practices, the room can be open all day for anyone to use without supervision.

Last month, Head of School Rebecca Upham approved the project. Its budget and funding are yet to be determined. 

Mr. Richard said he got the idea to turn the tank into a cardio room from his daughter, Taylor Richard ’14, a four-year member of the girls varsity crew team who went on to row at the University of Miami. 

“I think when I mentioned it to him, I was referring to how few days of the year the tank gets used compared to how much more cardio equipment could be useful for a team,” Taylor said. “I had rowing in mind—rowing at Miami, we did so much extra cardio outside of practice that my comment was mainly just about how he could make the space as productive as possible.”

At the start of the year, Mr. Richard pitched the idea to Ms. Upham to repurpose the space as a workout area for all students—rowers and non-rowers alike.

Other plans are in the works to help novice rowers simulate the stroke outside of the racing shells, Mr. Richard said. One possibility is the purchase of a training barge that sits on the river with two lines of eight rowers each and a central aisle for the coach to guide them and manage the rudder. Barges are tough to store, however, and cannot be used when the river is frozen, Mr. Richard said.

Philip Melki ’19, a coxswain on the Boys’ Varsity Crew (BVC), said he appreciated that the tank allowed him to observe the technique of rowers clearly, but he understands the attraction of a barge.

“I’m not opposed to the barge in terms of compensation,” he said. “I would say the barge is the equivalent, if not better, than the tank.”

Assistant Girls’ Varsity Crew (GVC) Coach Wendy Svatek recognized that the cardio room will benefit a greater number of athletes.

“The tank has definitely been a useful teaching tool for the crew program for both Middle School and Upper School rowers and coxswains, but I understand that space is a premium at the NAC and a cardio room will serve more people throughout the entire year.”

GVC member Katie McKinley ’18 said she thought the tank was a useful space for rowers.

“It’s disappointing because it’s an awesome space for rowers to use. Most people coming into BB&N are always impressed with the tank, and everyone automatically notices how special it is and how it sets our program apart from others.” 

BVC Coach Adam Holland said that although the tank was helpful for rowers, it was not the most important part of the crew program.

“I’d say that even if it was a draw, far more powerful attractions are our boathouse right across the street on the storied Charles River, our equipment, [and] our strong support from the athletic department.”

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