The old White Rock Lake filter building will soon house rowing shells.

The abandoned filter building on White Rock Lake, next door to the pump house, is just an eyesore in the eyes of many neighbors. It frequently attracts graffiti and is overgrown with brush. But the White Rock Rowing club sees something different, and has decided to give this piece of neighborhood history a face lift.

The club plans to renovate the abandoned filter building into a boathouse and indoor rowing training facility. Coming out the side of the filter building are two sedimentation basins that are 75 feet wide and 300 feet long. When Dallas citizens used the lake’s water, the basins pumped water out of White Rock, and the building’s machinery filtered it before it was distributed. Dallas Water Utilities owns the building, and when the city stopped using it many years ago, it was bricked up and the basins were filled up with dirt.

To Sam Leake, president of White Rock Rowing Club, and other club members, this creates the perfect setup for a boathouse. One of the basins will be excavated and turned into three boathouses for Southern Methodist University’s crew team, the White Rock Rowing Club, and a new crew team at Woodrow Wilson High School for students and other area teenagers (see sidebar).

In order to make this happen, the rowing club created a nonprofit, The White Rock Boathouse, and signed a lease with Dallas Water Utilities, which owns the building and has offices next door in the pump house. The project won approval from various city departments and boards. Private donations and foundation grants will pay for the $2.5 million project.

“We’re still beating the bushes,” Leake says. “But we still have enough to get started.”

Currently, the rowing club uses the old boathouse close to Winfrey Point. The 26-foot-deep building is perfect for a single shell, but the rowing club, which has about 110 members, is growing and would like to offer double and team shells, which are longer, for its members, Leake says.

A rowing shell is about 12 feet long. Since the boats stack on top of each other in storage bays, Leake says one basins provides plenty of storage.

A dirt path will lead from the boathouse to the lake. The club already has built a dock and plans to build another. Brush will be cleared off to make room for parking.

The 6,000-square foot brick building next to the basins will be renovated into an indoor rowing training facility and for special events, Leake says.

Carolyn McKnight-Bray, an assistant director with the Dallas Park and Recreation Department, says it would be very difficult for the City to do a project of this magnitude.

“We knew we didn’t have the resources to develop that into a facility like (the proposed boathouse),” McKnight-Bray says. “Money only goes so far. So when private groups step up, we like that.”

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