Help – we lost our boathouse


What do you do when something terrible happens to your boathouse? Coach Neil Bergenroth was involved in one of this terrible incidents. He is describing his experience in this post a while ago. Specifically, it is the coaches hope that other rowing clubs can have things in place prior to the unthinkable.

Photo Credit: In 1982 the Neptunes Rowing Club boathouse from Agro went up in flames. © Argo

There are many examples- unfortunately terrible examples. You can just imagine the pain in the rowers hearts watching a boathouse fire from their boat. Neil is writing this post to document his experience with this occurrence in hopes that others can learn from our experience.

The lost Boathouse: Strategic Plan

“While no one wishes that a boathouse or any equipment should ever get destroyed, the fact of the matter is that life happens, and we need to make the best of any situation. The tragic loss of our boathouse provided a unique opportunity to learn from our mistakes and plan for the future. It enabled us to ask ourselves, while we plan for the rebuilding of the boathouse, “What is our vision for serving the community of Tulsa through rowing?” It was like a “reset button.” …

Act now: Secure Your Facility

The first and most obvious thing to mention is to have adequate security in place to protect your equipment and boathouse. In our situation, the arsonist(s) managed to access our boathouse by breaking through the front door. It was locked, but the door frame was not sturdy, and it wasn’t difficult for the criminals to breach it. An extra amount of security (a sturdier door and lock, security cameras, alarm system with sensors, etc.) and preparation might have prevented this crime from occurring. I would suggest that if you have a combination lock, make sure that the code is protected, and be mercenary when it comes to sharing the code. If funds are available, it is worth the extra expense to install a monitored security system with motion sensors and lights that come on when a moving vehicle or human approaches. Weather is a more difficult and unpredictable situation to deal with, but obviously, the sturdier the building, the better.

Inventory and Insurance: Quartermaster

The next piece of advice is to ensure that there is someone or a team of people whose responsibility it is to inventory all of the equipment in the lost boathouse. Presumably, there is someone in each club who is responsible for scheduling certain items on an insurance policy as the club accumulates equipment. However, it is important that this schedule or list is updated on a regular basis. In our case, we had just purchased 8 new rowing machines, and these had not been scheduled on our insurance. Fortunately, our insurance policy contained a clause that allowed coverage on all equipment that had been purchased within the last six months, so the newest machines were covered. However, there were some Concept 2 rowing machines, an AED and other valuable items that were destroyed in the fire that were not covered on either the juniors’ or master’s insurance, and so there was a shortfall on insurance coverage. Upon further inspection, we discovered we had scheduled one of our shells twice and had been paying higher premiums because of this. Please learn from our experience and make sure that the inventory of all of your equipment is carefully and periodically updated in case of an emergency such as ours.

There Will Be People Who Will Help You

In our situation, word of our misfortune spread very quickly among the rowing community. I think it speaks volumes of our community that there were others who stepped in to help us in our time of need. The first to call us and offer help were the University of Tulsa and Okie CrossFit. Both organizations offered us access to their rowing machines and in the case of the University of Tulsa access to their rowing tank. Additionally, Reed Recreation Center on the west side of Tulsa also gave us access to a room in their facility when we needed it. The recreation center also provided storage for our ergometers. Imagine, 40 displaced teenagers, their coaches and an adult rowing community all coming at you with requests of assistance to keep their rowing programs running. We were all blessed to have the compassion and assistance at both the local and national levels.”

Clubs rely on their members and their families to support the club with financial help. But there are also organizations that are willing to help: Regatta entry fees can be donated, some sponsors could be found. Others might just loan money or equipment. Many clubs are having older equipment and are happy to loan this to your club.

Or check with your national association. They might know about fundraising strategies. Ask to use their network and their data base to get in contact with clubs, organisations and companies.

Media Coverage

“It goes without saying that we would have preferred it if our boathouse did not burn down. However, given that you cannot change the past it’s worth mentioning that the media were on hand to spread the word about what had happened. We had various pieces of airtime on many of the different television stations. It’s fair to say that we got more media attention in the three months after the fire than we had experienced in the last ten years. In a place like Oklahoma, media coverage is helpful when spreading the word about a sport such as rowing. …  If something like this happens to your club, media plattforms like ROWPERFECT  are always ready to help. Neil gave an interview where he described his experience.


Hold A Fundraiser to get Financial Aid for the lost Boathouse

“It is often the case that insurance will only cover part of your losses. In addition, there is almost always a deductible. Holding a fundraiser can help you rebuild, but when you have lost your facility, who can you count on to host the fundraiser? Search for ways to tap into the community that you serve and there will be people who will be able to assist you. In our case, we held a row-a-thon fundraiser and partnered with a local CrossFit gym (Okie CrossFit)….. We raised around $20,000 which helped to bring our insurance and fundraising to equal what we had lost in the fire.”


“I truly hope that no one suffers the kind of loss that our club did last year. However, the above discusses the critical issues that our clubs (Juniors and Masters) faced in the aftermath of our loss. At the time of writing, we have signed a contract with a construction company and are scheduled to have our boathouse rebuilt..  (Read full article here)

About the author: Neil has been involved with the sport of rowing for over thirty years and served as a rowing coach for twenty years. He won several championships and earned a place in the GB Junior National Team. He graduated graduated from Boston University with a BSc in Human Movement Studies. In 2016 he retired from all rowing club Head Coach responsibilities. Since then, he has started a private coaching practice (see details here) serving rowers in various parts of the world.

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