Welland’s place on the provincial rowing map just got bigger, and the competition calendar at the Welland International Flatwater Centre will become fuller.
In addition to being chosen by Row Ontario as home to the new Ontario Performance Centre, as well as the new Ontario Academy of Racing, all of Row Ontario’s proprietary events will be held on the former canal.
Row Ontario executive director Andrew Backer said Welland’s bid succeeded because of the world-class training and “hosting environment” provided by the flatwater centre.
“Welland’s bid had everything we were looking for and the community has a strong history for — and the community has a strong history of — high-performance rowing,” he said.
“We truly feel that Welland is the ideal location for the Ontario Performance Centre to allow our academy athletes to train and all regatta participants to compete.”
All of the bids received by the sport’s provincial governing body were confidential, Backer said in an interview.
“However, I am comfortable saying that we approached all the facilities across Ontario that had the adequate facilities and space to meet the needs outlined in our Request for Proposals document, both on and off the water,” he said.
Establishment of both the Ontario Performance Centre and Ontario Academy of Rowing is not expected to involve any new construction. Erin Carl, WIFC development officer, said the performance centre will utilize “current infrastructure.”
“The Ontario Rowing Academy will be housed out of the Welland Community Boathouse,” she said. “Training on both the northern reach of the waterway, the WIFC North and South courses.”Row Ontario said in a news release that Welland boasts one of the most impressive rowing facilities in Canada, highlighted by a waterway that is “placid and pristine” for training and competition. There were no worries on Row Ontario’s part that Welland’s calm water could be a double-edged sword, denying athletes an opportunity to overcome adversity. “Welland offers an ideal daily training environment and if we had any concerns about the calmness of the water, we would not be hosting the Ontario Performance Centre there,” Backer said. “Welland will allow the athletes to be on the water as much as possible and prepare adequately for other events in Ontario as well as national and international regattas.” At the Ontario Academy of Rowing, athletes will have access to full-time professional coaching along with other benefits.
Named head coach of Team Ontario’s rowing squad for the 2021 Canada Summer Games team in February, Schweinbenz has a wealth of experience and in-depth knowledge of the provincial high-performance rowing system after years of coaching, said Chris Marshall, manager of high performance with Row Ontario.
The training program for the Ontario Academy of Rowing will involve a comprehensive, year-long program delivered by full-time professional coaches. Low athlete-to-coach ratios will ensure a progression on the development curve for athletes.
Training will be done solely in singles, and competitions for academy participants will include the national rowing championships, the Row Ontario small boat trails, as well as Rowing Canada Aviron NextGen opportunities.
Proprietary Row Ontario events that will now be held in Welland include the small boat trials, south course; Tony Biernacki Sr. Memorial Regatta, north course; provincial masters championships, north course; and provincial championships, south course.