Skip to Main Content

UMass Lowell Rowing Program Elevated to Varsity Status


Announcement and Re-Naming Ceremony Friday, May 14

LOWELL ߝ UMass Lowell will announce the elevation of women’s rowing to varsity status as an NCAA Division II sport, effective this coming fall, and a re-naming of the boathouse, formerly the Bellegarde Boathouse, to the UMass Lowell Bellegarde Boathouse, at an event May 14 at the facility.

The name reflects the University’s ownership and honors its origins. New signage on the facility recognizes Edmund Bellegarde, for whom the boathouse was named when first constructed in 1982. Bellegarde was a Lowell resident and avid boater whose family still has strong roots in the community. A number of Bellegarde family members are expected to attend the Friday event.

They will join government, Lowell schools, Lowell National Historical Park and UMass Lowell officials, as well as the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, for a re-naming ceremony and a kick off of the Northeast Regional Junior Rowing Championships, which will take place Saturday and Sunday.

Built on the Merrimack River in Lowell Heritage State Park, the boathouse fell into disrepair in recent years. Substantial renovations to the facility were completed last year, using $1 million in state funds, secured with support from Lowell’s State House delegation. The facility is now expected to become a center for rowing and water sports in the Merrimack Valley.

 “With the future of the boathouse stabilized, we are now in position to advance rowing,” says UMass Lowell Athletic Director Dana Skinner.  "We’re grateful for the financial assistance delivered by our local delegation to bring new luster to the facility in the name of Edmund Bellegarde.”

Skinner has recently spoken with Olympic medalist and former UMass Lowell crew standout Shelagh Donohoe about the rowing program and facility. “I’m psyched that the boathouse is back up and the river is being used for what it is supposed to be used for,” said Donohoe, who is now coach of the University of Rhode Island women’s crew team.  “I’ve rowed all over the world and the Merrimack is still one of my favorite rivers.  I think they have all the resources they need for a successful program, an incredible river and a great high school program. The natural resources between the river and the community are what will make the program successful. You can’t just put a rowing program anywhere.” Donohoe won a silver medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

She knows what can happen when a club rowing program is elevated to varsity status.  Donohoe started her career at UMass Lowell in 1983, when the boathouse was constructed and the program went from club to varsity status. Donohoe’s team grew and became champions, winning the women’s lightweight eight event in the 1986 Dad Vail Regatta.

Among the programs being offered for the first time at the boathouse are youth spring and summer learn-to-row programs, competitive youth and collegiate summer teams, adult learn-to-row programs and corporate and team building programs. Paddle board and kayaking programs and rentals also are now available.
Anyone interested in events or programs at the boathouse can contact UMass Lowell’s Peter Murray, who can be reached at (978) 934-2310.

UMass Lowell, with a national reputation in science, engineering and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success in a diverse world and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health of the region. The University offers its 13,000 students more than 120 degree choices, internships, co-ops, five-year combined bachelor’s to master’s programs and doctoral studies in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management, the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education. .

For more information, contact or 978-934-3224