Listening to North Charlotte Rowing leaders, it isn’t clear whether they found Belmont or Belmont found them.
“I have a lot of faith in this area, a lot of excitement in this area,” said Barry Tomlinson, a 20-year Belmont resident and board member with the squad. “This can be a huge rowing center in this region.”
North Charlotte Rowing started in 2009 at Blythe Landing on Lake Norman. Last year, the group set sights on expansion. The board of directors bought out the program. Members evaluated more than 30 sites from Lake Wylie to Lake Norman.
“We outgrew our location last year,” Tomlinson said. “It became evident we had more people than Blythe Landing could handle, and we wanted smoother water.”
At 1500 River Drive in Belmont, the group found calm water. It found a community looking to embrace the river running through it. The group found 3,200 square feet of storage space for its gear, and permitting in place to launch or possibly add a dock later.
“Everything we needed just fell into place here in Belmont,” Tomlinson said.
Board member Jude Starrett is helping plan learn-to-row events and corporate challenges, including one that wrapped up Wednesday with a regatta.
“We’re excited to be in the area,” Starrett said. “The water is wonderful. Being in an area with less boat traffic was appealing.”
North Charlotte Rowing has social and competitive adult programs with training on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings. The 40 or so passholders can row any time once they’re certified to handle a boat. The group also has a youth program for ages 13-18.
“We would love very much to reach out to local high schools, and certainly local colleges and universities,” Tomlinson said.
Youth rowing isn’t new to Lake Wylie. Charlotte Youth Rowing began in 2000, launching from Catawba Yacht Club in Steele Creek. That club is open to high schoolers and has grown to more than 60 members with races held throughout the Southeast.
North Charlotte Rowing hopes for similar growth in Belmont.
“We’re a diamond in the rough, and we’re looking to get things smoothed out,” Starrett said.
Wade Glaser, a four-year rower at the University of Virginia who moved to Charlotte in 2011, is one of the club’s coaches. Glaser said rowing is “not a hugely popular sport” in this region, but people take to it quickly once they’re exposed.
“You can do it at any age, and you can learn it at any age,” he said.
Exercise and camaraderie are big draws for most, and the competitive aspect also sparks interest, he said. The flat, calm water of the club’s new Belmont home makes the spot ideal for learning.
“We’re really protected down there,” Glaser said.
North Charlotte Rowing has three eight-man boats, three four-man boats, two doubles and both racing and recreational singles. The group’s competitive arm will travel throughout the region with three or four regattas per year. The group also is looking for experienced coaches.
North Charlotte Rowing announced in May it would take residence in the former Belmont mill site. For more information on North Charlotte Rowing, visit northcharlotterowing.org.
For more on unaffiliated Charlotte Youth Rowing, visit charlotteyouthrowing.com.