By: Laura Johnston
Published: 10/11/2017 12:00:00 AM
The dock is 521 feet, the longest of its kind in the world. The rowing tank holds 55,000 gallons of water, the biggest and best in the world.
But the Foundry isn’t built to train Olympians, despite its motto: “Where athletes are forged.” The jaw-dropping 60,000-square-foot space – formerly home to gritty industry on the Cuyahoga River — is built for students, from sixth graders in the suburbs to seniors at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
“We break down the barriers so kids can get on the water,” said Tim McKenna, the Foundry’s director of operations.
The two-year-old nonprofit focuses on rowing and sailing, aiming to transform the elite, East Coast, prep school sports into opportunities for every Northeast Ohio kid.
Foundry instructors work with schools, camps Scout clubs, rec centers, city pools and the Cleveland Metroparks. They take boats and rowing machines out to kids and introduce them to the sport. They host kids from the YMCA. They demonstrate physics to science classes.
The Foundry is home to four high school rowing teams, including the inclusive Cleveland Youth Rowing Association, which draws kids from throughout the region. The facility was also home to Olympic rower Felice Mueller for two months this past summer.
“In the Midwest rowing is really growing,” McKenna said. “We’re seeing more and more kids.”
Cleveland since 1989 has been home to the Cleveland Rowing Foundation, which hosts high school, collegiate and adult masters rowing teams. But the Foundry focuses more on students.
“We have the opportunity to do more,” said McKenna. “We saw a need to be more youth focused.”
The $9 million project began with Mike Trebilcock, chairman of MCPc, a Cleveland-based computer firm, and his wife, Gina, whose three children are passionate rowers. They saw a need for more rowing space in Cleveland.
The Trebilcocks bought the 2.7-acre Columbus Road complex from the Pipeline Development Co. for $3 million in 2015 and worked with MCPC Family Charities to bring the vision to life. They hope to encourage Cleveland kids to learn teamwork and cooperation through the team sport, and create a culture that attracts regattas and inspires a positive image for Cleveland.
The Trebilcocks have been renovating the old brick buildings ever since.
There are still bigger plans, to add an outdoor pavilion and a balcony.
Already the buildings are impressive. There are two huge spaces to hold the 60-foot-long, 200-pound rowing shells, which seat up to eight members of a crew team, plus the coxswain. St. Joseph and St. Edward high schools own their own, while the Foundry supplies other boats for the youth, Magnificat and club teams. There are free weights and rowing machines.
And there’s the tank, with 36 seats (12 on each side, port and starboard, plus 12 for sculling, or rowing with both arms). Teams can practice when the weather is too rough to take boats into the river. Plus, a coach can stand over rowers, helping them to make corrections, to turn their heads or change their movement.
The tank, which can be set for specific speeds for different levels of workouts, is also used for adult fitness classes, after the high school teams are finished.
The facility also has conference rooms and space you can rent for events, plus state-of-the-art locker rooms with nine private showers — enough for each member of a boat.
A mile and a half down river, where the Cuyahoga meets Lake Erie, the Foundry operates a sailing school out of the old Coast Guard station, which it is subletting from the Cleveland Metroparks. It has 12 420 dinghy sailboats in the lagoon there, plus power boats to coach the sailors. They’ve already had their own regattas.
The Foundry wants to continue to expand both its sailing and rowing programs, to combat childhood obesity, teach kids about the water and maybe help kids get a college scholarship, through a sport they once knew nothing about.
“Football, baseball, basketball, everyone does that,” McKenna said. “You don’t play rowing in your backyard. Or sailing.”