• Hosted By: RowAmerica

Chicago Tribune

By Stephanie K. Baer, Tribune reporter
Row America to host regatta on the Fox River in St. Charles
Men and women donning fashionable suits and dresses chat over hors d'oeuvres under an enclosure at Pottawatomie Park, as rowing sculls cruise by in the Fox River in St. Charles.

It's a scene the west suburb isn't accustomed to, but it's one the city is supposed to get this October, when a new local rowing club hosts its inaugural regatta.

Modeled after the Royal Henley Regatta in England, the Row America event aims to help establish St. Charles as a rowing hub and increase interest in the sport. Competitive high school teams from all over the region have been invited to the Oct. 4 event, which will also include races for adults and middle-school-aged children.

"We're really trying to show people in the greater Chicagoland area the river community that St. Charles is," said David Miller, director of Row America's St. Charles club. "We are looking to drive significant revenue and tourism to St. Charles."

Row America is a private rowing company that was founded by Howard Winklevoss, the father of twin sons Cameron and Tyler, who competed in rowing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The brothers are widely known for suing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, claiming he stole their idea for the social media site.

Miller said he expects 500 to 1,000 rowers to participate in the event and hopes to draw thousands of spectators to the riverfront. The course is 3.2 miles long and will begin near the Riverwoods Family Campus and end at Pottawatomie, where spectators can watch the races and take rides in paddle wheel boats.

There will be a fee, which has yet to be determined, and a dress code for the viewing event at Pottawatomie. Men must wear suits or a blazer with slacks and women are required to wear dresses or skirts.

"We welcome use of the river. We welcome visitors coming to our town. A regatta would be wonderful," said Mayor Ray Rogina. "We have to utilize that river. It's very important to me."

The club recently got approval from the St. Charles Park District's board to reserve Ferson Creek and Pottawatomie parks as launching and viewing locations. Competitors will have to row north to the starting point.

The group still has to come up with a parking plan to accommodate spectators ahead of the event date, said Laura Rudow, superintendent of parks and planning for the park district.

"It's a new event, something that hasn't been done, so I'll be interested to see how this goes," Rudow said.