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Rowing opportunities in St. Charles might branch out

ST. CHARLES – With news of a national rowing company potentially coming to the area, the Saint Charles Rowing Club is looking to distinguish itself in the community. 

The St. Charles Park District and Row America are in talks to potentially bring the private company to the area and build a boathouse in Ferson Creek Park, where the Saint Charles Rowing Club currently launches their boats. 

Row America is a national rowing company founded by Howard Winklevoss, father of Cameron and Tyler, who rowed in the Beijing Olympics. The twins also sued Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerburg, claiming he stole their idea for the website.

Row America and the Saint Charles Rowing Club had discussions in the spring to gauge interest in associating, but Dave Dickison, President of Row America Boat Club, a division of Row America, cited “different philosophies and interests” for the talks stalling.

“Our purposes are a little different,” said Saint Charles Rowing Club Juniors Director Chris Meldrum.

While Row America is a highly competitive organization, the Saint Charles Rowing Club considers itself a more inclusive, community-minded organization that also offers competitive opportunities.

“We take in everyone," Meldrum said. "We embrace all rowers … [The kids] want to row. They want to compete. That's what we're doing. “If [someone] doesn't want to play baseball or basketball, rowing is an alternative.”

Row America is planning to invest $2 million into the St. Charles project according to Dickison, However, discussions remain in preliminary stages, said Holly Cabel, Director of the Board of Commissioners for the Park District.

Dickison believes St. Charles is a target area for the company to grow because of the affluence in the area, the proximity of the Fox River and good “rowing [opportunities] in the Chicago area."

"Our desire is to have winning teams in short order," Dickison said. "We want to get teams the best coaches and the best equipment."

The Saint Charles Rowing Club also prides itself on the quality of its instruction while maintaining a broader mission.

For Saint Charles Rowing Club second-year member Jack Sonin, rowing became a focus of his after sustaining four major concussions, along with concerns regarding his long-term health. Sonin was “super skeptical,” at first, but came in and got in a boat and thought it was the “coolest thing ever.” After starting his rowing career in the Learn to Row program through the Park District, and meeting once a week, Sonin eventually was encouraged by his coach, Meldrum, to attend more practices and compete.

“The Saint Charles Rowing Club connects youth to the sport of rowing, and it increases the use of the Fox River,” Cabel said.

The Saint Charles Rowing club draws 26 members from all over the Fox Valley area as well as Sycamore and Naperville, and travels around the country for rowing in competitions, also known as regattas. In preparation for regattas, the club rows six days a week.

“Anybody who comes out should get in a boat and try it,” Sonin urged.

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