With its plans for a permanent new boathouse now gone, Dallas United Crew must look for a way to keep its long-term plans afloat at White Rock Lake or elsewhere.
Officials with the nonprofit rowing club weren’t certain about the next steps following the decision of the Dallas Park and Recreation Board on Thursday to terminate the agreement with DUC to construct a new boathouse at the lake given the group’s fundraising shortfall.
“We’ll take a deep breath and then come back and figure it out,” said DUC president Belinda McDonnell. “We have a strong enough support base that we’ll find a way to continue in some manner.”
DUC originally rented space at the White Rock Boathouse, but its lease wasn’t renewed in 2011. So the group approached the city about constructing and operating a new city-owned boathouse with private funding.
“There was not a facility that could accommodate our growth in Dallas,” McDonnell told the board.
That led to an agreement in November 2012 that stipulated DUC had three years to raise money for the new facility, provide sufficient design plans, and begin construction. The organization hired an architect to design an expansive floating boathouse, but has been able to raise just $230,000 of its $3 million goal. Meanwhile, the agreement expired on Nov. 14, meaning the parks board could either offer and extension or terminate it.
While DUC officials remained confident they could raise the rest of the money, board members weren’t as certain.
“I believe the group has been given ample time,” said board vice president Jesse Moreno. “They’re still a long way away from raising funds.”
Becky Rader, the board member whose District 9 includes the lake, said her office has received complaints about DUC regarding early-morning noise and public urination. She opposed the extension.
Other board members contended that the city wouldn’t be harmed by giving the DUC more time to follow through. The board’s finance and administration committee recommended to extend the agreement indefinitely while retaining an option to terminate.
“In the last year, they made significant improvements in their organizational structure. If you pull the rug out from under them now, it tells them to scrap their ideas and go back to square one,” said board member Larry Jones. “Their plans are admittedly ambitious, but I don’t see where there’s any harm in giving them more time to see what they can do.”
The group features a strong contingent of Park Cities residents in its programs, especially on the roster for its competitive youth teams. After all, it began as HP Crew before changing its name several years ago in an effort to expand throughout Dallas.
Critics continue to hint at inequality and a lack of minority representation among the participants, although DUC officials argue they’ve made significant strides in that area through scholarships and partnerships. The group said that on its travel and competitive teams, more than a quarter are minorities.
Overall, DUC said participation has surged to almost 700 in all of its programs combined, including youth and adult rowing, kayaking, paddle boats, and those for military veterans
DUC now keeps its boats in a parking lot on the east side of the lake and operates its programs using a trailer and a dock. Proponents still hope that Dallas could sustain a rowing community to rival those in Austin and Oklahoma City. But whether DUC will try again with another agreement remains to be seen.
“The concept continues to be very attractive,” said parks board member Lawrence Hochberg. “They’ve done a lot to reach out to school children and others who would benefit from a rowing program at the lake.”