- Associated Press - Saturday, August 30, 2014

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - Greenwich businessman Howard Winklevoss knew the benefits of rowing even before he took up the sport. He saw them firsthand in his own sons, Tyler and Cameron, whose persistent requests led Winklevoss to save the Westport property where they learned to row.

There he built the Saugatuck Rowing Club, a 15,000-square-foot rowing facility, under the umbrella of RowAmerica, an organization dedicated to the advancement of the sport.

“Right from the get-go, his idea was to put rowing where it wouldn’t be otherwise,” said Brendan Crotty, president of WinTech Racing, the company’s line of racing shells. “It’s not a typical sport, but it’s now more visible.”

“I think it gives the kids confidence,” Winklevoss said.

Several years after creating SRC, he created the Greenwich Rowing Club and went into the boat distribution business by finding a manufacturer in China to make racing shells.

Now, more than a decade later, RowAmerica is expanding its reach even further in a 53,000-square-foot facility in Bridgeport, where the company will not only distribute its own WinTech Racing line and the King brands of shells, but will also create models of the former.

The Bridgeport facility will also serve as the headquarters for dock construction, the painting and repair of all types of rowboats and the expansion of the RowAmerica clubs throughout the country.

The building couldn’t be in a better location; it lies just yards away from Seaside, Bridgeport’s waterfront park.

“Our attempt is to make this an epicenter for our sport,” Crotty said. “The idea is to get coaches and administrators in the rowing world into this facility to use us as a meeting point. Every aspect of rowing will be covered underneath this roof. It being right on the water is kind of cool.”

The Bridgeport location is also ideally situated between Boston and New York and New Jersey, Crotty said. And the proximity of the Atlantic Street building off I-95 is also convenient for the delivery and pickup of the boats.

“It’s also nice coming into a neighborhood that needs a little bit of hope,” he said of the South End. “If we can be that business to inject that hope into Seaside Park, wonderful.”

Like Winklevoss, Crotty and David Dickison, president of RowAmerica Boat Clubs, praise the benefits of rowing.

“It teaches them so much,” Dickison said. “It’s a little scary. You really have to be responsible on the water. And before you know it, they’re pushing themselves to the absolute limit getting ahead of the other guy. You’re teaching kids basically how to become incredible workers for the rest of their lives.”

The fact that it’s a team sport also makes it harder for teens to slack off, Crotty said.

“If you’re not there, eight other people will be let down and they’ll let you know it,” he said. “There isn’t a whole lot of flexibility for being late or being absent, period.”

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