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Bridgeport Boathouse 'A Beacon,' Rowing Coach Says

By Casey Cora | November 11, 2014 5:13am
 The city's plans could help draw more interest to a free rowing program for low-income students.
The city's plans could help draw more interest to a free rowing program for low-income students.
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City of Chicago

BRIDGEPORT — Montana Butsch knows the potential that a showcase boathouse will have on his free rowing and mentorship program for low-income teens.

"When this becomes a reality, it becomes a part of the neighborhood and the skyline and it becomes a beacon" for people interested in the sport, said Butsch, founder of the Chicago Training Center.

The city on Sunday announced plans to build a Jeanne Gang-designed boathouse at Park 571, located along Eleanor Street in Bridgeport. 

Paid for with city and state funding, the $5.7 million Bridgeport facility is last in line after Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans to bring boathouses to the Chicago River in a bid to expand recreation on the waterway. 

Three other boathouses have already been built in Clark Park, River Park and just up the river from Bridgeport in Chinatown.

Butsch said the addition of a boathouse would help draw more South and West side teens to the program he founded, which offers teens free rowing instruction, team competition, nutrition counseling and college enrollment help.

Already, he's been posting fliers at nearby neighborhood elementary and high schools to get more local kids in the program, which routinely churns out students headed to college on rowing scholarships. 

"This will allow to operate at a much higher level. To date, we haven't been able to do any meaningful tutoring in health and sports. We haven't been able to have visitors, special presentations or on-site gatherings like dinners and fundraising and recruitment pitches," he said.

In addition to Butsch's training program, the existing makeshift boat launch site is used by Recovery on Water, a rowing group for breast cancer survivors, as well as St. Ignatius College Prep and University of Chicago. 

The new 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.

It will be open to the public. 

The facility is expected to open in summer 2016. 

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