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Aquatic Center Is Splash Hit for Nearly 20 Years

Not all the learning at Sac State takes place in the classroom. Since 1981, thousands of children, teens, adults and Sac State students have received a water-based education at the CSUS Aquatic Center.

The Center is a partnership between the University, the Associated Students, the University Union, the California Department of Boating and Waterways and the California Department of Parks and Recreation. It sits on the shore of Lake Natoma, about 15 miles east of campus.

As a certified state regional boating safety center, the Center offers dozens of aquatic, boating and safety programs. Some courses are available to Sac State students for credit, while others are group or private lessons and clinics that are also open to the public. And this year more than 3,500 children and teens took part in summer camp, after-school and spring break programs including special “Guppies” camps for the seven-year-olds.

The Center also functions as a recreation destination, with beach and grass areas, picnic tables, barbeques and docks. Guests can rent keelboats, sailboats, surf skis, windsurfers, canoes and kayaks.

But where it really shines is as a rowing venue. Long and narrow with no tidal influence, Lake Natoma has been the site of choice for the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships since 1983, drawing the best rowers in the West. In addition, the Center regularly hosts the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association (WIRA) Rowing Championship, the Women’s West Coast Conference Rowing Championships and the PAC 10 Rowing Championships.

“I think it’s one of the best facilities—if not the best—in the country,” says University of Washington rowing coach Jan Harville, who also sits on the NCAA Women’s Rowing Committee.

UC San Diego women’s crew coach Jack Vallerga, a long-time Pacific Coast regatta participant, agrees. “I’ve been coaching for 28 years and Lake Natoma is the best course on the West Coast, hands down,” he says. “At Lake Natoma there’s no favored lane. When there’s wind, it’s either straight on or a tailwind.”

Perhaps that’s why the Aquatic Center was selected as the rowing venue in the Bay Area’s bid for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Several “water” groups also call the facility home including Sac State’s water ski, rowing and sailing clubs. But the most decorated tenant is the Sac State Women’s Intercollegiate Rowing Team. In 2001, the varsity eight won its second consecutive WIRA championship,
besting the 24 rowing institutions on the West Coast that are not members of the Pac-10. The successful season also earned head coach Bill Zack his second consecutive WIRA Coach of the Year award.

Aquatic Center Upgrade ImageThe rowing team’s home base is in the midst of a multimillion-dollar renovation to add boat storage areas, showers and locker rooms, classroom and meeting space, new docking facilities and improved beach access. The University plans to raise about $200,000 for the project with the remaining funds coming from Boating and Waterways. For information on contributing to the project, contact Craig Perez at (916) 278-4912.

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