A shattered window pane rests against the back of the East Park Canoe House. Its outer walls are riddled with chipped paint, and the decrepit property is surrounded by a Federal Rent-A-Fence.
Its boating dock, crew assistant coach Brian Perkins said, washed away in a storm.
This is the place the crew and rowing teams proudly call their home.
“I honestly think it builds character,” rowing senior captain Moira Meekes said.
The crew team carries its boats to a dock downriver from a storage tent – the team’s current home – both before and after each practice. The rowing team does the same, but its tent is situated closer to the dock than the crew tent.
After the EPCH was condemned in 2008, the teams use the two tents and an outdoor trailer along the Schuylkill for year-round storage.
“I’m always nervous,” Perkins said. “We keep [the boats] outside, which isn’t good for these sleek racing shells.”
In time, the two programs will have their home back, thanks to a $5.5 million renovation from funds donated by the City of Philadelphia and Temple trustee H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest.
The move joins a slew of recent or in-progress upgrades on the university’s part to its facilities, which include new locker rooms for several varsity sports, updates to both McGonigle Hall and the Liacouras Center, along with a new athletic complex on the William Penn High School property to be finalized by 2016. The new complex, announced on the heels of Temple’s $15 million purchase of the property during the summer, will house the men’s and women’s soccer teams, along with women’s track & field.
Athletic Director Kevin Clark said the department is also looking at field hockey and lacrosse as a possibility to move to the new complex. Both sports currently play at Geasey Field on Main Campus, which is located on 15th and Norris streets.
‘Out in the cold’
Men’s crew clinched a Grand Finale appearance in Great Britain’s renowned Henley Royal Regatta in 1984, and has competed in the quarterfinal four times. Several of the team’s alumni have earned international crew honors, including world championship, World Cup and Olympic medals. The team’s head coach, Gavin White, is a five-time U.S. National Rowing Team coach.
Still, the program runs without a permanent home.
On the same day it was announced that the crew and rowing teams would be reinstated after its initial inclusion in last December’s athletic cuts, President Theobald and Mayor Michael Nutter announced the renovation of the EPCH in February, and said the process would take 12-18 months.
On Oct. 1, eight months after the original timetable given for the boathouse’s renovation, Clark said construction should be completed in 12-18 months.
“I’ve heard nothing from facilities,” Perkins said. “Now, on paper, I’m just some assistant coach. Nobody’s required to talk to me. But my feeling in speaking to [rowing head coach Rebecca Grzybowski and White] is nobody’s really communicating to anybody. But again, there might not be anything to communicate.”
Aside from the winter months, the teams take refuge in their tents before and after each practice. At one point, they didn’t even have that, after a snow storm took out one of the crew team’s previous tents.
“Our first tent fell down, and our second tent got crushed by snow,” Perkins said. “This is [crew’s] third tent right now. For five months, we were with no tent at all. We were completely al fresco. We were just standing out in the cold.”
The EPCH was built in 1914 and was used as an Olympic training site for several years. Temple’s crew and rowing programs called the house home from 1969 until its condemning in 2008.
Upon its completion, Temple will share the EPCH with the Philadelphia Police Marine Unit, which will occupy the right bay of the house. The rest of the building will belong to the crew and rowing teams.
Perkins said the building will include locker rooms and coaching offices, alongside other amenities.
A move to Broad
To alleviate the time commitment of traveling from Ambler Campus and back for practice each day, former women’s soccer coach Matt Gwilliam starting using the outdoor turf of the football team’s Edberg-Olson Hall in 2011, his first year coaching the team.
Coach Seamus O’Connor continued the practice upon his arrival in 2013.
“Everything we have at Ambler is [excellent],” O’Connor said. “But it’s just too far to really make it our home.”
O’Connor’s team has drawn 263 fans on average through three games this season, which ranks second-to-last in the American Athletic Conference ahead of the University of Houston, which averages 191.
Men’s soccer’s average of 178 fans through seven home games this season ranks last in the conference, and trails second-to-last Memphis by an attendance average of 178. Its conference opponents have averaged 1,232 fans per home game thus far.
The School Reform Commission approved Temple’s purchase of the property in June. The William Penn Property Coalition, a community-organized group, had its request for an injunction against the purchase denied in August.
Clark said the university will employ a design team for the complex in the next few months, and that the project should be finished within the next 12-18 months. O’Connor said it’ll open in time for the Fall 2016 season.
“Usually wherever school we go to, there’s a vocal support,” O’Connor said. “That’s what we want.”
New money, new facilities
Each of the university’s non-revenue sports returned from the summer break to upgraded locker rooms this fall, a move spurred by a facilities assessment on part of the Athletic Department, Clark said.
Each room includes new lockers emblazoned with each student-athlete’s name, a lounge space with custom chairs and plasma TVs, a renovated changing and shower area along with fresh carpet and paint.
Other changes included a new ergometer room for the crew and rowing teams, a more exclusive setting than the initial setup it had in McGonigle Hall’s basement weight room.
The wooden bleachers inside McGonigle’s gym have all been draped with plastic padding this fall, while a video board is set to be installed prior to the women’s basketball season.
Among other upgrades, the Liacouras Center will feature a new Hall of Fame section, honoring past Temple athletes with a place in the university’s Hall of Fame, starting in November.
“I think things have gone really well,” Clark said of his department’s state. “I think much [better than last year], when you think of all the challenges we had to deal with last year.”
Since 2003, the football team has played its home games at Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. Temple’s contract with the Linc runs out after the 2017 season.
Rumors surrounding the possibility of a football stadium on campus gained credibility when President Theobald announced the university was in a “serious discussion” regarding a new stadium last November, and that it would likely be involved in the 2014 master plan.
If the field hockey and lacrosse programs were to move to the William Penn property in 2016, it could leave the property of Geasey Field and its adjacent track & field complex open.
“You’d have to talk to the facility guys,” Clark said of the complex. “Once [the master plan] is laid out, we’ll have a better feel what’s going to take place with that space.”
“Right now, it is what it is,” Clark added. “It’s a process.”
Andrew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @Andrew_Parent23