BY SOFIA SCEKIC | PHOTO COURTESY PNRA
The Princeton National Rowing Association (PNRA) is moving forward with plans to expand its facility on Mercer Lake in Mercer County, New Jersey. The facility is used by local high schoolers, juniors, and masters rowers and is the main training facility for Olympic rowers.
The 14,000-square-foot expansion will include a two-story building that wraps around the current building on three sides, said PNRA Executive Director Kristopher Grudt. The expansion aims to increase indoor training and meeting spaces and includes larger locker rooms, a climate-controlled repair bay, and a larger and safer parking area.
PNRA’s junior team is sometimes as large as nearly 200 athletes, Grudt said, but the current training facility has the capacity for only 30 ergs. By expanding the indoor workout space to accommodate up to 80 ergs, junior athletes no longer will have to find alternate workout locations over the winter.
Expanding the indoor erg space will benefit U.S. National Team athletes as well. “Being able to do their workout on and off the water at the same location and not having to travel to other places is something I think they’ll really appreciate,” Grudt said.
Josy Verdonkschot, USRowing’s chief high-performance officer, told Rowing News that the updated Mercer Lake facility will serve as one of three training centers for U.S. rowers as they prepare for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. The other two are the California Rowing Club and an expanded facility at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla.
The boathouse at PNRA was built in 1997 jointly by the Peddie School and the Lawrenceville School. The U.S. National Team began training on Mercer Lake in the early 2000s, and it’s now USRowing’s main training center. PNRA realized years ago that it would need additional space to serve the increasing number of athletes seeking to train there.
Mercer County bought the land the training facility occupies several decades ago through New Jersey’s Green Acres program, which provides funding to counties and municipalities for preserving green space and providing sites for recreation. Although the program restricts what the property can be used for and what can be built, PNRA’s expansion plans have been approved by the county and align with the intent and purpose of the Green Acres program, Grudt said.
The expansion will take place in two stages, with the parking-area enlargement, featuring a 128-car lot and gravel overflow space, beginning later this year. Construction of the locker rooms and indoor-training and meeting facilities is expected to begin in early 2024 and last about 12 months.
The $7-million expansion will be covered by public funding and contributions from the local community, USRowing, and U.S. National Team supporters. Some money has been raised already, and Grudt hopes to have all sources of funding identified before construction begins.
“Everybody in the local rowing community is excited about it,” Grudt said. “We have developed a strong relationship with the county park here, and also with the schools and the community, and the expansion will give us an opportunity to continue to build on that.”