GPS and McCallie School will hold a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday at 2 p.m., for a $5.1 million rowing center that will serve both schools’ expanding rowing programs.
Construction of the center, which will be located on Girls Preparatory School’s property on the north shore of the Tennessee River near downtown Chattanooga, will begin this month, with expected completion in late spring of 2020. GPS has provided the land and river access, and the funds for the new facility were raised by alumni, parents, and friends of McCallie.
The center will replace the current GPS boathouse and will include separate locker rooms for both schools’ programs, office space for coaches, storage for both schools’ rowing shells, ergonomic machines and other equipment, and restrooms for use by rowing and softball spectators and players. A new dock is already in place at the water’s edge. Additionally, a multipurpose room with a catering kitchen will provide event space.
“When McCallie approached us with the idea of a shared facility, we worked to find a solution that would benefit not only both schools’ programs but also the Chattanooga rowing community,” says GPS Head of School Dr. Autumn A. Graves. “Our location on the Tennessee River provides an optimal setting for an expanded rowing center that will serve our schools well. We anticipate that this new center will become a vital part of the increasingly popular sport of rowing in the Chattanooga community.”
McCallie’s Headmaster Lee Burns, echoed Dr. Graves’ comments. “Because our schools’ teams often compete in the same events, joining our individual crew programs through a shared rowing center is a natural fit for us and for the Chattanooga community. We’re proud to lead the way in establishing rowing as a major school sport in the Southeast.”
GPS and McCallie have had crew programs since the early 1990s and have established national reputations among other college preparatory schools. Many of the schools’ graduates have received scholarships to row at top colleges and universities throughout the nation. Both schools continue to play a part in the Head of the Hooch Regatta, one of the largest rowing events in the U.S., which is held in downtown Chattanooga each fall.
Presently McCallie has a lease agreement with UTC, in which it uses barges near UTC’s campus to house its shells. As that lease neared expiration, McCallie realized a need for more space for its growing program, Headmaster Burns said. “We are grateful to UTC for accommodating us over many years.”
While McCallie considered options for a new space, and GPS looked at ways to expand its crew program and facilities, both schools realized a new rowing center to house its programs would be beneficial to each, as well as provide growth potential within the Chattanooga community.
“GPS and McCallie students enjoy a vibrant coordinate program that includes cheerleading, the performing arts, community service, and social activities,” Dr. Graves said. “The new rowing center is a logical and practical extension of that program.” Presently, GPS has nearly 40 students who participate in rowing and McCallie has 70. Both schools expect those numbers to increase as the popularity of the sport continues to grow.
The groundbreaking ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday at the site of the new rowing center on the lower campus of GPS.