Rowing in Cleveland:
The Cleveland Rowing Foundation (CRF)
Modern day rowing in Cleveland began in 1981 when four people formed the Cuyahoga Rowing Association (CRA), rowing from the Sycamore Slip Marina near the mouth of the river. In 1985 as they grew they shifted their boathouse operations to a warehouse adjacent to the Columbus Road bridge. In 1987 a for-profit summer rowing program began and in 1989 a number of their rowing enthusiasts split off and merged with CRA. The combined operation was non-profit and named Western Reserve Rowing Association (WRRA). In 1993 WRRA began its Summer Rowing League which remains one of the country's largest summer rowing programs, and in 1996 it organized it's first annual Head of the Cuyahoga Regatta.
Due to the growth of the organization, the Western Reserve Rowing Foundation (WRRF) was formed as an umbrella organization for the collection of high school, collegiate, and adult crew programs. It was established as a non-profit 501(c)3 dedicated to competitive and recreational racing and the expansion of the sport of rowing in the Greater Cleveland area, with a focus on youth rowing.
In 2003, WRRF changed its name, becoming the Cleveland Rowing Foundation (CRF) and revised its governance structure to officers and a board of directors that included rowing representatives as well as community and corporate directors. CRF moved into a new 11,000 square foot facility in the summer of 2004, directly adjacent to its existing boat bays. This new facility included staff offices, a workout facility, and a Common Room that could accommodate 100-plus.
As the organization continued to grow, the CRF Board of Directors began a search for a new home along the Cuyahoga River that would accommodate the needs of its member organizations and secure the future of rowing in Cleveland. Partnering with The Trust for Public Land and with a generous donation from the Gund Foundation, the former Commodore Club Marina was purchased in 2010, which included 6.5 acres of land and a 19,000 square foot building. By the beginning of the 2011 rowing season, CRF was situated in its new location and is part of Rivergate Park. In 2015, an additional boat house consisting of 6,500 square feet was added.
Today, CRF is comprised of eight member organizations, serving over 1,500 high school, collegiate and adult rowers.
Head of the Cuyahoga Regatta
In 1989, WRRA hosted the very first Cleveland Sprints Regatta inside the breakwall on Lake Erie. In 1996, the Cleveland Sprints Regatta was moved from Lake Erie to the Cuyahoga River, and the distance was changed from a 2,000 meter sprint to a 2.5 mile head race, marking the beginning of what is known today as the Head of the Cuyahoga Regatta. The initial head race, which was included as a Cleveland Bicentennial event, involved over 250 rowers and 3,000 spectators. The race has continued to grow and is now a 5,000 meter race. In 2018, hosted over 2,200 athletes in over 525 entries from 53 clubs, 38 cities, 11 states and Canada, and is currently the sixth largest Regatta in the country.