Increasing Access to our Chicago River: The Eleanor Street Boathouse in Bridgeport

With the construction of the Eleanor Boathouse near completion, the Chicago Parks Foundation sat down with the organizations that will be using the new boathouse and facilities.  Each organization shared their gratitude and discussed their involvement and the impact each program will hopefully have in the Bridgeport community.



Recovery on Water team in action

The Eleanor Boathouse is a Chicago Park District property, designed by renowned architect Jeanne Gang. Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the Boathouse project in 2011 to increase community use of the Chicago River. This is the fourth boathouse to be constructed in Chicago.

Who will be present at the Eleanor Boathouse?

  • Chicago Training Center (CTC) is a nonprofit organization that provides rowing training, homework support and mentoring to underserved Chicago youth. According to CTC, their programs are designed to motivate students to become physically fit, to promote teamwork, self-esteem and leadership skills, as well as develop and advance their educational and life goals. All CTC programs are free and open to CPS high school students.
  • Lincoln Park Boat Club (LPBC) Established in 1910, the LPBC is the oldest rowing organization in the city and provides lessons to the public for sculling, sweep rowing, stand up paddle boarding and kayaking. LPBC offers free public events such as their annual “Learn to Row” day held in June. There is a comprehensive community outreach effort for athletes with various abilities and adaptive needs, and to fill LPBC competitive teams that travel across the country for local, national and world rowing regattas.
  • Recovery on Water (ROW) is a rowing team for women diagnosed with breast cancer; giving them the unique opportunity to interact, become active in their recovery and gain support from fellow survivors. The goal of the ROW program is to increase exercise consistency in people diagnosed with breast cancer and to improve their quality of life. ROW provides free exercise programs for over 85 patients and survivors of breast cancer 7 days a week, year round: in rowing shells on the south branch of the Chicago River during the spring, summer, and fall, and on indoor rowing machines during winter months.
  • South Branch Park Advisory Council is a group of community volunteers in the South Branch area that formed a PAC, a Chicago Park District sanctioned group that works to support community park efforts. The group currently meets at The Duck Inn (across the street from the new Eleanor Boathouse) but hopes to hold community meetings with various guest speakers at the new boathouse.
  • Ignatius College Prep is home to a “no cut” rowing team; any student, at any skill level, is invited to row on the team. St. Ignatius participates in regional and national rowing competitions, and students from the team volunteer regularly with ROW.
  • University of Chicago Rowing Team was formed first as a women’s team in 1974. The team is looking forward to sharing their love for rowing as well as their rowing skills with the South Branch community.

U of C Women’s Crew Team

James Burns (South Branch Park Advisory Council) has been working hard to ensure the boathouse reflects the community’s wants and needs. He says “since South Branch PAC’s formation in January 2016, we have worked to form a strong community presence, educate PAC members about the river and future boathouse, and collaborate with community members to inform the Chicago Park District of programs people want to see when the boathouse opens.”

The rowing clubs and organization that will be using the Eleanor Boathouse cannot stress enough how important a home base will be to their membership.

Jocelyn Duran, 14, (center, with glasses and gray sweatshirt) takes part in the rowing program at Chicago training Center in Chicago on Tuesday, July 2, 2013. (Scott Strazzante/Chicago Tribune) ....OUTSIDE TRIBUNE CO.- NO MAGS, NO SALES, NO INTERNET, NO TV, CHICAGO OUT, NO DIGITAL MANIPULATION...

Montana Busch, Executive Director of Chicago Training Center, with participants during the program. July 2, 2013. (Scott Strazzante/Chicago Tribune)

Trish Brubaker (University of Chicago Rowing Coach) says “The cultural impact a physical boathouse has on a team cannot be overstated. It will be their meeting place, their shelter, and the home of everything they love about their team and rowing.”

In addition to nurturing team bonding, the space will become a hub for community programs and interaction. Free tutoring and mentoring services are being discussed and hope to be provided by the Chicago Training Center for local kids according to Executive Director Montana Butsch.


St. Ignatius Rowing Team

Recovery on Water is looking forward to a safe and comfortable space to facilitate non-traditional breast cancer support groups, and students from the University of Chicago will have the opportunity to interact with Bridgeport and Pilsen communities.

“The backdrop of this shared facility allows our junior rowers to see the sport in play at the collegiate level, within the broader community and in selfless ways.” – Bob Fitzsimmons (St. Ignatius)

Lincoln Park Boat Club Men’s Team

The Boathouse will also foster interaction between these groups. Students from St. Ignatius will be surrounded by older students from the University of Chicago, as well as obtain service hours by volunteering and interning with Recovery on Water. Jenn Gibbons (Recovery on Water) describes this mutually beneficial relationship,


“We are all utilizing the space to change lives, make fast boats, and build individual characters…we need to work together to make the boathouse a success.”

Most importantly, the boathouse will bring the Bridgeport/Pilsen community together and allow these organizations to reach even more people through programming.

Trish Brubaker (also coaches for the Lincoln Park Rowing Teams) says “The beautiful Eleanor Street Boathouse will allow our competitive adult and junior rowers to train unimpeded. We will all be able to bring more young people into junior boating, adults to masters sculling, SUP [stand up paddle boarding], and kayaking for everyone. We’re excited and grateful for the opportunity!”

The Chicago Parks Foundation congratulates the Chicago Park District and Studio Gang for bringing this architectural jewel to the Chicago River. The Eleanor Street Boathouse is just one more project that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has championed to improve the use of the Chicago River and expand water activities for the city of Chicago. The Eleanor Street Boathouse Ribbon Cutting is open to the public on Sunday December 4th, 2016.

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