For the last five years, the Sooner rowing team has made the trek up I-35 to hit the water at the Oklahoma River. Now, there are plans for a new facility that will give the team a place to train right on campus.
The new OU Rowing Training Center is scheduled to break ground next month and is expected to be finished in the spring of 2014. The $6.5 million dollar, 24,000 -square foot facility will feature a 16-seat "moving water" rowing tank that will simulate on-the-water training indoors.
It will also have a workout area, sports medicine and hydrotherapy room, team room and locker room. The facility will be just one of only a handful in the nation available at college campuses.
Head coach Leeanne Crain says the project is exciting and the facility will give her growing program much needed space.
"The impact it's going to make is to allow the team to train at a really high level, because we'll have state-of-the-art equipment and resources in the facility," Crain said. "And also just operate with more efficiency since our numbers have gotten so large it's just difficult to have that many training in a small space."
The University of Oklahoma Board of Regents just approved the project in January. However, OU Administrators have had the facility in mind for a while.
Rowing has become an increasingly popular sport in Oklahoma. OU is one of three collegiate programs in the state, along with the University of Tulsa and Oklahoma City University.
However, student-athletes at OU have to travel to Oklahoma City to train on the water. That's why OU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione says the new facility is important. In addition to convenience, the facility and its state-of-the-art equipment will also give the Sooners an edge in competition.
"It's an emerging sport in a lot of other places. We've looked at a variety of newer facilities to see what they have done or are contemplating. In a lot cases, the universities have a facility that is right there at the shore on the water for which they train and compete. So they really didn't have an on-campus facility like this," Castiglione said. "This on-campus facility allows us to train as much as possible."
Nikki Furmanek, a senior and captain of the team, says she's excited about the level of training the team will be able to receive there.
"I think this facility is going to play a huge role on our team, have a huge impact, because it will be a place where we can go and travel at a really high intensity and get a lot of work both on the ergs (ergometers) and on the water in the tanks," Furmanek said. "It will be really nice because we will have a training facility center component there so it's kind of like an all-in-one house for us to come and get our work done."
OU opens its 2013 season March 9 and 10 when it hosts the OU Invitational at the Oklahoma River.