Team Spotlight: Sammamish Rowing Association
Usually a rowing club starts with some rowers and a coach, then some boats and oars, and eventually a boathouse. But with SRA, the boathouse came first. In 1994, Hod Fowler, a former collegiate rower, learned of an old boathouse in Marymoor Park. The boathouse was originally built by the Overlake School on the site of a former sewage-treatment plant. Overlake later abandoned the building, and Fowler discovered it was weeks away from being demolished as part of a toxic-site cleanup project in Marymoor Park.
Fowler quickly recruited a community of interested rowers. With support from King County, Fowler and a small number of co-founders established a non-profit dedicated to serving a broad range of members. They incorporated in 1995 and settled on the name Sammamish Rowing Association, choosing “association” over “club” to reflect the inclusive, non-elite, public nature of the organization. While the Marymoor site underwent rehabilitation, the new rowing organization spent its first two years in a temporary one-bay boathouse in Idylwood Park. During that time, SRA grew to include about 40 rowers, spread across a 5 a.m. team, a mid-morning team, and a junior program.
After two years in Idylwood and following the completion of the Marymoor cleanup, SRA moved into the old Overlake boathouse in 1997. Volunteers replaced the rotted roof on the boathouse, and the 5 a.m. team started the generator each morning until a volunteer work party eventually ran power and water from the street. Nonetheless, nothing could change the damp, dark, and rickety nature of the building.
Fowler and the board knew SRA was one major storm away from losing its boathouse. SRA was continuing to grow, with steadily expanding juniors’ and masters’ programs. A new home was necessary, and conversations about building a new boathouse began.
Given the challenges of building in a wetland, SRA considered alternative locations such as Idylwood Park and Lake Sammamish State Park. After a five-year search the Marymoor site was recognized as the best location for the boathouse. SRA received a shoreline permit in 2005, allowing for construction in the vicinity of the Lake Sammamish shoreline, but that was not the end of the story.
In 2010, after years of setbacks, disappointments, and persistence, SRA was finally awarded a building permit and allowed to begin construction. Over the next six years, SRA built the new boathouse in phases as funding permitted. The organization began using the boat bays in 2013, the gym in 2015, and the offices, bathrooms, and locker rooms in 2016.
Throughout the entire process, King County Parks’ Community Partnership Grants program provided extraordinary moral and financial support. SRA’s own members were the largest source of capital over the years, and the taxpayers of Washington State funded a sizable grant that made the last phase of construction possible.
Today, with the new boathouse complete, nearly a thousand people come through the doors of Sammamish Rowing Association each year to experience Row for a Day events, Learn to Row classes, summer camps, independent rowing, and recreational, adaptive, and competitive rowing teams for teens and adults. View the facility here.
Remaining true to Hod Fowler’s original vision of a community organization open to all, Sammamish Rowing Association continues to provide rowing opportunities on a non-exclusive, first-come-first-served basis. Some 20 years after its founding, SRA honors and upholds its mission to spark and nurture a passion for the sport of rowing.
Sammamish Rowing Association’s High School Team provides a safe and supportive environment for student athletes to develop rowing skills and fitness, as well as sportsmanship, commitment, teamwork, and discipline. SRA’s coaches provide support and guidance to help athletes pursue excellence on and off the water, set and achieve realistic goals, and develop balance between family, school, and rowing. Junior rowers leave SRA with the confidence to take on the next chapters of their lives whether on or off the water, having built skills, friendships, and memories that will last a lifetime. SRA offers scholarships so that they never have to turn a rower away due to financial inability to pay. In their entire history, we have never turned a rower away.
This summer, SRA is offering camps for middle and high school students of all abilities. You can browse camps via their website.