The growing Saratoga Rowing Association aims to buy a piece of property on Route 9P that would allow it to host higher-profile regattas.
The association plans to close on a deal in the next couple of weeks with George Pravda for a 1-acre tract in the town of Saratoga across Fish Creek from the association’s current boathouse, said Executive Director Eric Catalano.
He declined to disclose more about the agreement before it is finalized, including the association’s exact plans for the property.
Pravda owns two adjacent tracts on Route 9P just south of the road that leads to the state boat launch and Lee’s Campground — a 0.63-acre property with a commercial building and a 0.38-acre mobile home park.
“We’re looking to expand and improve our ability to run regattas,” Catalano said. “We’re excited about upgrading our regattas and making Saratoga an elite regatta center.”
The group’s regattas — which include the state scholastic championships, the Head of the Fish, the Tail of the Fish, the Saratoga Invitational, the North American Junior B/C Championships and Section II Championships — already draw 30,000 athletes and spectators a year and generate an estimated $5.1 million in direct and indirect economic impact in the community, Catalano said.
The rowing association also is building a new sculling pavilion on its current site on Fish Creek in the city of Saratoga Springs. Catalano expects the pavilion to be ready in time for the start of fall rowing season in early September. It will allow the association to store all its boats indoors.
“Our program has expanded so much that our current facility hasn’t been able to support the growth for storage of boats,” Catalano said.
“We’ve had a lot of boats stored outside for the past several years and exposed to the elements.”
The new building will have enough room for more than 40 single and double boats, including club-owned boats and private boats whose owners will rent space from the association.
The association got a grant from The Wright Family Foundation, which is associated with the SI Group in Schenectady, to construct the 22-by-140-foot pavilion. Its current boathouse measures 80 by 80 feet.
The group has about 175 rowers in grades 7-12 who compete in the junior division, as well as 80 adult rowers and 100 people who take one-week programs, Catalano said.
The teams’ successes and the opportunities offered to participants have attracted more people to the sport in the last few years.
Because the association doesn’t cut any rowers but instead groups them by skill level, the athletes can develop their skill rather than sitting on the sidelines, Catalano said.
“They can join for as long as they want,” he said. “There’s no such thing as a ‘bench’ in rowing.”
The philosophy apparently works — many high-schoolers go on to row in college, with 1 in 4 competing in a Division I program and 1 in 12 in an Ivy League program, Catalano said.
This month, two local rowers from the women’s under-23 team competed in the world championships in Austria, the third time Saratoga rowers have competed at the international level.
A Ballston Spa teen went to the world championships in junior men’s singles in 2011 and a junior women’s coxswain competed at the worlds in 2006.
“We have seen a lot of success in the past several years,” Catalano said. “Success is exciting, and people want to join in and it’s attractive.”
Most rowers live in Saratoga Springs, though some come from Ballston Spa, Schuylerville and Stillwater.
“We keep our doors open to pretty much anyone who’s the right age who wants to learn,” he said.