Because of lingering ice on the lake on Wednesday, race organizers decided to move this weekend’s collegiate rowing competition to a shorter course on the Grand River along the Grand Haven boardwalk.
But because the ice cleared Thursday morning and several collegiate coaches were skeptical about a shorter course, the event will bounce back to its original location, with staging at the Spring Lake Yacht Club in Ferrysburg.
“There was a lot of concern by a number of the colleges that were coming to participate,” said local Chamber of Commerce President Joy Gaasch. “They were questioning whether or not they wanted to be on the river. Part of the Lubbers Cup is to create a premiere rowing event. We wanted to make sure those teams were going to come.”
Organizers met on the Grand Haven waterfront Wednesday morning to work out logistics of a downtown race. They aborted those plans Thursday morning.
“It wasn’t an easy decision because the City of Grand Haven has absolutely been amazing in helping to facilitate moving on such short notice,” Gaasch said.
Grand Valley State University head rowing coach John Bancheri said as grateful as he is to community leaders for trying to accommodate a change in venue, he is thankful they’ll be rowing across Spring Lake in a full 2,000-meter course. He said none of the college teams were going to cancel their trip plans if the course was shortened, but he’s glad Plan A transpired.
“They understand we’re in a dynamic environment,” Bancheri said. “It’s been tough for everyone this winter. They prefer the 2,000 (meters) because that’s what everyone is trained for.”
The coach said he’s pleased that the event will be on Spring Lake for the 50th anniversary of the GVSU rowing team.
“Our first race was led by Dr. Charles Irwin in 1964 from out of Barrett’s Marina on Spring Lake,” Bancheri said. “It’s only fitting that, 50 years later, we’re back to where it all began. I’ve been all over the country with rowing for 42 years (and) the Spring Lake venue and backdrop is as beautiful as any that I’ve been to in the United States.”
Competing universities this weekend include GVSU, Purdue, Michigan State, Drake, Cincinnati, Eastern Michigan, Colorado State and University of Michigan.
Races take place from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 8-11:30 a.m. Sunday. An awards ceremony is scheduled for noon Sunday.
Parking is available at Emmanuel Free Church, 17737 W. Spring Lake Road; and the Trillium Banquet Center, 17246 VanWagoner Road. Shuttle service from there to the yacht club is available for $2.