The sport of rowing will soon gain more attention in North Carolina as Belmont Rowing Center was approved for a ten year lease at Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park. The decision came after a unanimous vote by Belmont City Council.Formerly North Charlotte Rowing Center, BRC moved to Gaston County in 2014 and has been operating along a portion of River Drive. The organization and city will split the cost to build a 19 feet by 84 feet dock on the Catawba River for the park’s boat launch area. The upstream portion will be for kayaking and paddle sports, while downstream is designated for rowing.Belmont Rowing Center President Jude Starrett expressed her excitement saying, “We’ve never had the luxury of permanence…now we have the lease and can actually say we can do it.”Starrett described rowing as one of the oldest sports in existence, from the Greeks to Romans, a sport that traverses time and had yet to find a niche in North Carolina.The new space will provide much visibility to both BRC and rowing. Youth programs start at age 13 and many continue the sport through high school, even receiving college scholarships. Starrett noted that two former rowers from the Lake Norman center are now on scholarship, one at Princeton and another at Notre Dame.While rowing is a great workout utilizing the leg and core muscles, it is also quite tranquil. As for a day of rowing on the Catawba River, Starrett described breathtaking sunrises and sunsets and regaining a connection with nature.”The Catawba River has phenomenal water, it’s calm and gorgeous and so is the wildlife that’s out there. We can row ten miles upstream towards Mountain Island Lake and ten miles downstream towards Lake Wylie,” said Starrett.For Belmont, Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park has been a key component in establishing the city’s reputation as more than just a historic suburb of nearby Charlotte.”Belmont is marketing itself as a livable, active, healthy sports community. Gaston County also has a place for that, they have the activities we think we fit right into…It’s another alternative for people to try something they might’ve never run into.” said Starrett.BRC was the recipient of the 2015 Belmont Community Impact Fund, a grant award of $5,000 to crucial organizations on the rise. Starrett described the relationship between BRC and Belmont as symbiotic. Plans to begin construction are anchored for spring, yet there’s a lot of work to be done, mainly in the form of fundraising and grant writing.The lease is a launching point for a grander vision. Starrett hopes for regatta competitions. “What we want people to see is the potential that could be there, if our wildest dreams came true, it would be big enough to have a boathouse.”For now, those interested in the sport can take a “Learn to Row” program offered in March.
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