After three years in Oak Ridge, the annual USRowing Youth National Championships will move west next year to Lake Natoma in Sacramento, Calif.
It’s the first time the championships have been scheduled to be held on the West Coast, officials said. Before coming to Oak Ridge, the races had been held in Cincinnati each year since 1994.
Although it won’t host the Youth National Championships again next year, the Oak Ridge Rowing Association is bidding to host one of two USRowing events next summer, either the Club Nationals in July or Masters National in August, head coach Allen Eubanks said.
The USRowing Youth National Championships this past weekend was the last regatta of the spring for the Oak Ridge Rowing Association, Eubanks said. There is one more in Oak Ridge this year, the Secret City Head Race on Oct. 26.
Eubanks said there could be five regattas in Oak Ridge next year. Officials have estimated that the regattas, as well as spring training, have an economic impact of about $23 million per year.
The Youth National Championships this past weekend featured more than 1,500 athletes on Melton Hill Lake. There were some 369 crews from 153 clubs in 30 states. The junior school and high school students competed for national titles in 18 boat classes. About 5,000 spectators were expected.
Eubanks said volunteers from the Oak Ridge Rowing Association and community played crucial roles in making the three-day event a success.
“Without them, we can’t do what we do,” he said.
He said the ORRA also appears to be meeting the expectations of regatta organizers. The Oak Ridge rowing course is considered one of the Top 2 venues in the country, along with Lake Natoma, Eubanks said. The 2014 USRowing Youth National Championships will be hosted there by the Sacramento State Aquatic Center.
Rowers say they like the six-lane Oak Ridge course because it’s flat and fair, and there is generally not much wind or other boats. Also, spectators can see most of the race from the waterfront, and they can ride bikes down the greenway on the waterfront to follow the race.
Still, Eubanks said Oak Ridge has to improve its rowing course, possibly adding an additional lane and dock and trail lighting, if it wants to continue attracting top-level regattas. That will require community buy-in, Eubanks said, but he expressed hope that there could be some financial help as the economy improves and the public sees what the ORRA does and what it brings to the community.