Feb. 12, 2016

By Russell Dorn

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A program-changing moment for University of Notre Dame rowing occurred in early December, as the state-of-the-art McConnell Family Boathouse was completed along the St. Joseph River.

The almost 15,000-square foot facility provides the Irish with an impressive facility that rivals many of the top programs in the country.

While a new dock and a few other minor projects are still on tap for the spring, the boathouse has already paid dividends as the Irish have gotten out on the water twice this winter for the first time in years.

A dream of Irish head coach Martin Stone since he stepped foot on campus in October 1997, the project began in mid-April (2015) about the same time the Irish were gearing up for their fourth-consecutive NCAA Championship regatta.

Fighting Irish Media recently sat down with Stone to discuss the new boathouse and what it means to a Notre Dame program that has proven that it can be a consistent challenger nationally in a sport that was heavily dominated by teams on the East and West coasts for decades.

On the process of getting a new boathouse for Notre Dame Rowing …

“There has always been a plan to build a new facility for the rowing program. But like anything else, it takes time. Finally about eight years ago a donor (the McConnell Family) came forward with funding and it helped set the wheels in motion to get to where we are today.”

On thoughts when told that it was time to start building …

“Surprise. We wanted to pinch ourselves to make sure it was real. It wasn’t until December when we were able to get in it (the boathouse) and do stuff that felt real.”

On what makes this facility so special …

“It gives us a chance to continue to help student-athletes perform at a high level and reach their potential. It allows us to do some things that our other facility wouldn’t allow us to do like preventative boat maintenance, meeting to review video, warming up and cooling down properly on the erg machines, etc. It really allows us to be more efficient, which helps our student-athletes since they are so crunched for time. We are able to do a lot more. We have already been able to go out on the water twice this winter when in year’s past we wouldn’t have been able to do that.”

On thoughts the first time walking in …

“‘Wow this is pretty cool.’ It was neat because we were able to watch it from the holes in the ground last April until completion when we walked in for the first time in December.”

On some of the best parts of the facility …

“We have a heated locker room, the meeting area where we can watch videos, the warm up area with rowing machines, the training room, the huge boat bays downstairs. It’s really an outstanding facility.”

The Irish open their spring 2016 slate in Oak Ridge, Tennessee at the Cardinal/Oak Ridge Invitational March 12-13.

For more information on the Notre Dame rowing program, follow the Irish on Facebook (/NDWomensRowing) and Twitter (@NDRowing).

Russell Dorn, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2011 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame volleyball, rowing and baseball programs. A native of Greenwood, South Carolina, Dorn graduated from Furman University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in history before earning his master’s degree in sports communications from Georgia State University in 2011.