New Stella Maris clubhouse completed

By Peter McNamara

Photos courtesy of Stella Maris Rowing club.

After a long application process and weeks of building, the renovation of the Stella Maris Rowing Club is complete.

The interior of the old clubhouse has been entirely modernised and an upper floor has been added to the building to house a gym. As well as the changes to the clubhouse, there’s an all-new boathouse, built in hard wearing steel and concrete.

The ground-floor level of the renovated clubhouse features changing and toilet facilities for members, along with a multi-purpose workshop for oar making and boat repair. It also contains a kitchen.

The first-floor gym space opens onto a long balcony, which overlooks the river. It boasts rowing machines and exercise bikes, as well as weight lifting and TRX equipment. “It’s one of the most advanced gyms of any rowing club in Dublin,” says Liam Bannable, chairman of Stella Maris.

Bannable made the initial application to Dublin City Council, and to Covanta and won funding from both sources. Kennedy Woods Architects are in charge of the build. “They’ve been great,” says Bannable, “all the way through.”

There were many reasons to undertake the build. The old clubhouse had issues with damp and cold: The new one is fully insulated and features a disabled toilet. “One of the main reasons we wanted to upgrade the clubhouse,” explains the Chairman, “was to reflect the growth in the club. We want to harness our momentum. And keep on growing.”

Without doubt, the Stella Maris Rowing Club has been going from strength to strength. Membership is up 40% since 2013, something Bannable puts down to the hard work of the youth section. “Kids are training here every morning, every day. The parents have been great to give them the chance.”

He reckons the competitive success of the club is something else that has generated interest. Stella Maris have won the East Coast competition every year from 2012 to 2017, and have taken home the Overall Shield from 2012 to 2015. And there’s no denying the role of the O’Donovan brothers. National interest in rowing has been on the rise since the charming pair won silver at the 2014 Rio Olympics. Liam grins at their mention: “They’re great ambassadors for the sport.”

A rower since he was 18, Bannable’s passion for the sport is obvious. He has even won an All-Ireland gold medal himself. Elected as chairman by the members of the club, all his efforts on behalf of Stella Maris have been voluntary. “It’s an important part of the community. And at the club we really believe in giving back.”

He’s true to his word. This summer the Stella Maris ran a free camp where kids could learn to sail two days a week. There have also been family fun-days with bouncy castles and a BBQ. “We love the community here, and we want to contribute to it to keep it vibrant as ever. And with these new facilities we know we can do even more.”

Taking part in sport is so beneficial, physically and mentally. Bannable is very encouraged to see so many young people taking up rowing. “We even have older members returning,” he adds.

Annual subscription fees are €50 for an adult and €25 for a child. Members have all rowing equipment provided, and have the use of the renovated clubhouse and balcony. “There might be a small charge for the gym,” explains the chairman, “you might throw a euro in a box or something.”

Since the days of the nobblers guiding trade ships into port, skiff rowing has always been part of Ringsend. With an all-new clubhouse, and rising excitement in the sport across the country, the time might be right to visit the Stella Maris Rowing Club, and take part in this proud local tradition.

The HOPE Row and Run takes place at the Stella Maris on the second week of September.