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Sailing | After decades of work, sailing boathouse begins construction

Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 08:11


Courtesy Ken Legler

The sailing boathouse was state-of-the-art in the 1960s, but the concrete structure has worn down and will soon be replaced by the Larry Bacow Boathouse.


The original Tufts sailing boathouse was an antique in every sense of the word. Built in 1948 and featuring three rooms for storing boats, the old boathouse wasn’t given a bathroom until 1960 or proper plumbing until the 1990s. This week, construction workers are breaking ground on the new Larry Bacow Boathouse.

The first thing to go is the bathroom. 

From there, two levels will be added to the preexisting boathouse, which will triple the area athletes, coaches and spectators have at their disposal. The second floor will have a locker room and additional repair space. The top floor will have a main room for the team to gather together after practice, an office, a kitchen, a conference room and a library, not to mention an outdoor deck area that will stretch the length of the boathouse.

For coach Ken Legler, who came to Tufts to coach over 30 years ago, the boathouse has been a long time in the making.

“It took kind of forever,” he said. “I came here in the fall of 1980 and the undergrads were already working on fundraising to make this happen.” 

A long time coming

Thursday’s practice started out normally for junior tri-captain Will Haegar. That is, it was normal until Legler motored up in the middle of practice from a meeting and blasted on his whistle to bring the boats together. All Legler had to do was throw his arms in the air, a piece of paper clutched in his fist, for the team to know that the permits for the boathouse had finally come through.

“We all started clapping and couldn’t help but smile,” Haeger said. “It was a really cool moment for us.”

But the project’s approval was the result of decades of hard work and frustration.

Although fundraising started in the ’80s, keeping pace with inflation proved to be a hard task for the fundraisers. They chose to build a new-and-improved plumbing system first, which, according to Legler, would have cost twice as much if it were built today.

More ambitious plans for the boathouse have been in the works ever since former President Larry Bacow put his support behind its construction. 

Bacow, a sailor himself when he was a student at MIT, has always placed a strong emphasis on athletics. Upon leaving the university in August 2011, Bacow channeled many of the unmarked gifts he had received into the boathouse fund.  

According to Legler, once the staff found out that Bacow was behind the project they knew it would be finished — it was just a question of when. This proved to be an important turning point: Tufts sailing has had the money to build the boathouse for the past year, but building permit complications have gotten in the way.

“[It was a] full year of delays on the permits,” Legler said. “Every time we solved one issue it would lead to another.”

All of that changed last Thursday, when Legler was in Boston at a sailing-related hearing. He received word that the building permits had finally come through. From Boston, Legler used every means of transportation at his disposal, finally motoring up to the boats on the Mystic Lake to stop practice and announce the good news.

“I waved my hands and everyone knew,” he said. “This time it’s for real. The boating construction company shows up this week to begin work.” 

From bunker to glass castle

For the athletes, the new boathouse will make their Tufts sailing experience a lot more comfortable. According to senior tri-captain Natalie Salk, one of the most exciting additions of the new boathouse will be the locker room, where athletes can store wet and bulky gear instead of stashing it at home. 

And for freshman Claire Brodie, who has raced for five years but never sailed anywhere with locker rooms, the new boathouse will provide a welcome change. For freshmen like Brodie, who will be able to use the new boathouse for the next three years, the timing of the permit is fortuitous. 

“The one we had was fine, but this [new] one has a lot more space,” she said. “It will be nice to have a bathroom and somewhere to change.”

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