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River Park Boathouse Debuts on Chicago River in Albany Park

By Mauricio Peña | November 10, 2014 5:54am
 During Sunday's ceremony, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a fourth boat house to be built in the South Side.
Boat House
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ALBANY PARK — For three years, Jenn Gibbons has pushed for the construction of new boathouses along the Chicago River. Now she's got four.

Gibbons, executive director of Recovery on Water, a rowing club for breast cancer survivors, rowed Lake Michigan this summer to raise awareness for the boathouses.

"We've been working with the city for three years now to get this project going," she said.

On Saturday, she joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other city officials for the grand opening of a boathouse at River Park. At the ceremony, Emanuel announced the construction of a fourth boathouse in Bridgeport.

"We've been on the southern branch without a home for such a long time, and we've built strong programs without running water, without electricity," Gibbons said. We are so excited about the concept of a boathouse on the South Side."

"What we are doing here, with the riverwalk and the boathouses, is we are making the Chicago River the second waterfront for the city of Chicago," Emanuel said. "We are reclaiming the river as the next recreational frontier in the city."

The Chicago Park District funded the $1.4 million River Park boathouse project, which includes an expanded and renovated storage facility.

The city has seen a boom in boathouses since last year. In June 2013, one was opened in Chinatown; another was opened in Clark Park in Roscoe Village.

"The mayor's commitment to our community to build it, to make it exciting for us to play here, work here and live here ... the commitment the mayor has to fitness and us really being our best, and contributing to the 33rd ward, has really been quite an asset," 33rd Ward Ald. Deb Mell said Saturday at River Park.

The newly announced boathouse at Park 571 in Bridgeport is projected to be finished by summer 2016.

The $5.7 million project, designed by Studio Gang Architects, will be funded by the state and the Chicago Park District. The 19,000-square-foot facility will include in-house boat storage, an ergometer workout area and a boat storage building with a floating launch dock in the Chicago River.

Members of the Chicago rowing community came out to celebrate the third boathouse and the announcement of the fourth.

Chicago Training Center Coach Daniel Izguerra said he was grateful for the city's commitment to the sport.

"Having this secure space is of the utmost importance; we don't have to leave our boats out overnight, have them vandalized," he said.

Gibbons echoed Izguerra's gratitude.

"I know that the mayor is pulled in so many directions with funding, but he has really worked with us to get this made," Gibbons said "The great thing about these boat programs is that, yes, they are wonderful for our programs and each individual area, but they really connect us and make the whole city stronger.

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