The Lake Lanier Rowing Club expects to “weather the storm” caused by the loss of revenue-generating activities this year and last. As of late December, no collegiate crews had signed up for spring break training and the annual January ergatta had been canceled due to coronavirus concerns. “Fortunately, the club has been managed very well,” said club president Cliff Ward. However, it’s clearly a loss for the year, he added.
Traditionally thousands of college rowers from northern climates flock to Lanier for spring break camps in March, culminating with the John Hunter Regatta near the first weekend of spring. Although the regatta’s website indicated in December that “The Hunter” is still on for March 20-21, crews had not confirmed they would be practicing at Lake Lanier Olympic Park this spring.
Ward said the club and city of Gainesville tourism officials were sending letters to colleges that normally hold spring training camps at LLOP. But as of last month, there had been no response.
The coronavirus shut down most team collegiate practices and regattas beginning in March 2020. Uncertainty about how the pandemic might affect college crew programs this year has likely contributed to the lag in training camp registration. “It has been a strange year,” Ward said.
Among the cancellations is a perennial University of Virginia winter pilgrimage to Lake Lanier. The Cavaliers, which for a dozen years toughed it out in snow, ice, and flooding at LLOP (plus some nice weather), chose to stay on home waters in Charlottesville for winter break.
A smaller LLRC rite of the season, the Mark Williams Ergatta, was also canceled. Ward said club officials voted in October not to host the January indoor competition on stationary rowing machines.
Perhaps the biggest loss is the move of the American Collegiate Rowing Association national championship to Oak Ridge, Tenn. ACRA announced in September it would break a 12-year tradition of crowning champions on Lanier in the Memorial Day weekend regatta. The regatta usually fills LLOP and Gainesville-area hotels and restaurants with 1,500-plus athletes and fans.
LLOP Executive Director and Gainesville Tourism Director Robyn Lynch told Lakeside News in November that the ACRA move was not totally unexpected. She indicated ACRA officials had expressed an interest in alternating locations annually. “We look forward to having the championships back in the near future,” she said.