After a season of regatta cancellations at Lake Lanier Olympic Park, a bright beacon appeared on the horizon. The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced last month that the venue will play host to its Division I, II, and III Women’s Rowing Championships in 2026.
The championship, one of the most prestigious events slated at the popular regatta site, is expected to bring in 36 teams for a week and generate an economic impact of $2.5 million, according to Robyn Lynch, LLOP Executive Director, and Gainesville tourism director. “In addition, Gainesville will see an influx of NCAA rowing teams choosing to participate in regattas and winter/spring training for several years leading up to the championships,” she said.
It will be the second NCAA Women’s Division Championships to come to Lanier, also the site of other high profile international, national and regional regattas. The first NCAA appearance was in 1998, following in the wake of the 1996 Olympic rowing and sprint canoe/kayak competition.
The City of Gainesville, University of North Georgia (UNG) and Lake Lanier Rowing Club joined the LLOP Foundation in formally submitting the bid in February 2020. For only the third time in its history, the NCAA undertook a site election process where most of its championships were put out for bid at the same time, the NCAA stated in a press release.
NCAA reported receiving more than 3,000 bid submissions from NCAA member schools, conferences, sports commissions and cities vying to host predetermined rounds for 86 of the NCAA’s 90 championships. NCAA sports committees made selections of host sites based on criteria that included the ability to create an outstanding experience for student-athletes, along with adherence to NCAA sport-specific bid specifications.
UNG President Bonita Jacobs said the university is honored to partner with the city and LLOP as the sponsoring member institution for the championships.
“UNG and the Nighthawks’ athletics staff are excited to help create a memorable and first-class championship experience for the student-athletes as we showcase the hospitality of our region and this incredible venue,” Jacobs said.
Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan shared the excitement, stating he was thrilled the NCAA appreciated features in Gainesville he and city leaders are proud of. “I’m always proud to remind folks, especially visitors to Gainesville, that Lake Lanier Olympic Park is home of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games rowing and canoe/kayak events,” Dunagan said. “We were hopeful our world-class facility, paired with our famous Southern hospitality, would make Gainesville a top contender for the NCAA.
We know our future visitors will love Gainesville as much as we do, and we extend our sincerest thanks to the NCAA for giving us that chance.” Lynch said the local organizing committee of volunteers has worked diligently to keep the Olympic legacy alive at LLOP. “The committee is looking forward to hosting the prestigious NCAA Women’s Rowing Championships in 2026,” she said.