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Phillips Academy Boathouse Project Builds Upon Ivy League Donation

Tue May 08, 2012 - Northeast Edition
Jay Adams

Harvard, Princeton and Yale have ruled the Head of the Charles Racing Regatta since it began in the autumn of 1965 and their legendary sculls and boats were donated to enhance the rowing program in the old boathouse at Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass., one of the premier preparatory schools in New England.

The Phillips program had begun in 1955, and the donated equipment did much to enhance it. In the late 1970s, a legendary coach was brought in to revitalize that rowing program. In 2012, future world-class American oarsman will be launched from a new home.

What does this have to do with construction?

With three Ivy League giants providing the original boats, you need to call on two equally noted contracting and construction giants to build the house.

J. Masterson Construction of Danvers, Mass., has announced that it has “launched” its first-ever project with highly-regarded design-builders Windover Construction of Manchester, Mass. The longtime New England companies — noted for unusual projects across several states and university campuses — are working together on the Phillips Academy Boathouse Project in Methuen, Mass.

Building on the Merrimack

The estimated $6.5 million project is located on the Merrimack River and will require a great deal of team coordination to meet all of the project’s environmental restrictions.

“Windover is the general contractor and we are a subcontractor to them,” said J. Masterson Project Manager William Peach, excited about the announced new client. “They are a very well-respected contractor that does a lot of work in the private school market, similar to ourselves, and this is our first job together.”

According to Peach, the new boathouse is a “Redevelopment of an industrial building into the home of the school rowing program to replace a much smaller outdated facility that Phillips Andover is currently using. They are trying to keep up with a growing program and other schools with similar facilities.”

The school has raised almost $6 million of the estimated $6.5 million project, which includes a lovely riverbank lot of land and construction costs.

Work began in February on what will be a very large structure, surrounded by more than a few environmental concerns for wetlands and riverbanks. There also is the interesting challenge of turning a former home for trucks into a house for boats.

“It is a 16,000-square-foot building which is being renovated from an old truck dealership into a facility to store boats,” said Peach. “It will also have office meeting space, locker rooms and workout space.”

Both Windover and J. Masterson are making environmental concerns a top priority on the riverbank.

“Because it is on the Merrimack River, the site work must meet numerous local, state and federal regulations with resection to storm water design and modifications as well as soil management,” added Peach.

Total project duration for all of Windover’s work is estimated to be six months, from start to EPA inspection/finish.

School Building

Both construction companies have long and storied histories of building impressively designed buildings on high school and college campuses.

Windover has built a 65,000-sq.-ft. Life Sciences and Business Building, Stoneridge Hall and Marblehead Hall at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass.; has done renovations at Cape Ann Waldorf School; built a new 11,000-sq.-ft. dormitory at Cambridge School of Weston; and has done classroom renovation and additions at Brookwood School in Manchester, Mass.; as well as work at many other educational facilities.

Founded in 1981, J. Masterson has grown continuously over the years due to retention of quality employees and commitment to customer satisfaction. It, too, is a full service construction company.

Masterson also has completed work for other local private schools including The Fay School, Southborough, Mass.; St. John’s Preparatory School, Danvers, Mass.; Brookwood School, Manchester, Mass.; and Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Mass.

“Windover’s relationship with the school and their other school experience, as well as Masterson’s experience with riverfront work and work in Methuen helped win the project for both firms,” Peach explained.

Some 56 years after Phillip Andover oars first cut through the surface of the Merrimack River, crews anticipate their new converted building on the banks of the waterway.

“We have outgrown where we are,” crew coach Pete Washburn told his school’s monthly magazine. “The new spot will put us on a stretch of the river that is much more conducive to rowing.”

Wider, more open views of the river will give spectators a much better view of the course.

From GMC Trucks to Boats

In August 2010, Andover announced that it had entered into an agreement with a General GMC truck dealership in Methuen, Mass., to purchase its building and surrounding 5.8 acres.

As of late March, plans to relocate the crew program from Andover to Methuen where fans could watch rowers along the Merrimack River, were underway as site work and renovation of the property began.

Crews will row their final season at the Andover boathouse this spring before moving next fall to their new house in Methuen. Instead of tearing down the present structure, crews will renovate it completely.

Shelly Guyer, chair of the school’s building committee called this a fine example of “adaptive reuse” and described the future boathouse as “elegant industrial.”

“The boathouse will be extremely functional and useful as the program grows,” she said.

It is a program that began in 1955 with three hand-me-down Ivy League shells and a team of 30 which has grown to more than 125 boys and girls.

“This new facility is much needed because our current facility is simply inadequate to meet the needs of our crew program,” added Steve Porter, director of Public Information at Philip Andover. “The current boathouse does not provide enough space to accommodate equipment or people.

“The current facility suffers from limited parking, limited space for spectators, no changing rooms for visiting crew teams, and inadequate space to store and maintain equipment,” added Porter.

In contract, the new location has dedicated parking for six trailers, ample parking for spectators and buses, plenty of room for crews to rig their boats and still lots of room left over for spectators.

“We will have a boathouse with bathrooms for athletes and spectators, and there will be changing rooms for visiting crews,” said Porter. “The boathouse also will provide enough room to accommodate our equipment and allow us to maintain it. We’ll even have enough space to accommodate both crews and parents.

“Crew is one of the most popular sports at the school, and we are all very excited to finally be able to give this sport the facility it needs to thrive,” he added.

“Crew continues to thrive in spite of the limitations of its current facility — a cinderblock garage accessible down a winding dirt path, with limited changing areas and bathrooms,” said a recent post in the school’s magazine.

Rowers, coaches, families and fans look forward to having a new home base, which will feature the following:

• Creative reuse of an existing building with “green” plans for landscaping and wildlife preservation

• Garage bays and a building width that is ideal for 60-ft. shells

• Ample parking and easy waterfront access

• Prime location on a straight-away stretch of river: better for practicing, racing and viewing.

That donation of used boats from Harvard, Yale and Princeton back in 1955 enabled Coach Bill Brown (Class of 1934) to establish crew at Andover. The program swept through the waters for more than 20 years.

However, in the late 1970s, the school needed a new boathouse, as well as a new coach. Phillips Andover actually considered ending the ancient sport. In 1979, the school was fortunate to hire teacher and new crew coach Pete Washburn and wife Kit, who had taught at St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Mass.

The program has continued with the current facilities under Washburn’s lead. As Andover prepares to relocate up river, Washburn told his school magazine, “I frequently remind our students that the boathouse does not make you fast. We are not interested in a palace, but we do look forward to additional space.”

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