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University of Iowa News Release


March 26, 2008

UI's renowned hydraulics institute designs training tank for rowing team

When the University of Iowa's P. Sue Beckwith, M.D., Boathouse opens its doors to the UI rowing team and the general public for the first time in May 2009, it will already have established a reputation for excellence.

That's because the building's state-of-the-art indoor rowing practice tank is being designed by the world-renowned IIHR-Hydroscience and Engineering center. The institute, a unit of the UI College of Engineering, is one of the nation's premier and oldest fluids research and teaching laboratories. Students and visitors from around the world have long come to IIHR to study and conduct hydraulic research and to carry acquired expertise back to their home countries.

Larry Weber, IIHR director, professor of civil and environmental engineering and designer of the rowing tank, says that his work on the project has been very enjoyable.

"Several U.S. universities have built rowing tanks, but none has lived up to the designed water flow speed of about 10 feet per second," he said. "That means that the rowing teams must modify their training oars to replicate competition stroke conditions. After visiting a similar rowing tank at the University of Wisconsin in December of 2006, we were able to construct a one-quarter-scale model that enabled us to design the jet propulsion system for the larger UI tank that will meet the design speed desired by the crew teams.

"We have been able to take our expertise in hydraulic design and really add value to the project," said Weber, whose colleague on the project is engineer Troy Lyons of IIHR. Collaborating on the scale model construction were IIHR, the UI Athletic Department and Neumann Monson Architects of Iowa City.

In addition to the rowing practice tank, the 20,000-square-foot boathouse will include storage bays for boats, a locker room, and a rowing training and testing center.

The boathouse, being built at a cost of about $6.2 million, is named in recognition of a $1 million gift to the UI Foundation from P. Sue Beckwith, M.D., a Des Moines surgeon, UI alumna, four-year letter-winner for the Iowa women's basketball team and member of the UI Foundation board of directors. The P. Sue Beckwith, M.D., Boathouse, a partnership with the City of Iowa City, will be built on the banks of the Iowa River in Terrell Mill Park, on Dubuque Street across from City Park. The boathouse will offer space for youth and adult crew clubs and a community rowing program.

Jane Meyer, UI senior associate director of athletics, said: "I was absolutely thrilled when I learned from project manager Hugh Barry of UI Facilities Management that IIHR had the expertise to assist us in the project. Larry and Troy have been tremendously helpful in perfecting the design of the rowing tank.  Most important, the partnership between athletics and one of our most-heralded institutes once again speaks volumes about how the entire university wins when we use UI faculty and staff talent to benefit our student/student-athletes."

Significantly, project planners are in the process of applying for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification through the U.S. Green Building Council. By achieving certification, the boathouse would become the first building of its kind on the UI campus to meet LEED standards for environmentally sustainable construction. Among other things, plans call for the boathouse to use local products to make up more that 20 percent of its materials and for more than 20 percent of its content to be recyclable.

For more information about the P. Sue Beckwith, M.D., Boathouse, including a profile of Beckwith and a video, visit

The UI acknowledges the UI Foundation as the preferred channel for private contributions that benefit all areas of the university. For more information about the foundation, visit its Web site at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

EDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,