‘Here comes the cavalry’, Olympic rower Rogier Blink jokes, passing Gyas president Paul Janssen. Approximately 30 Gyas members and ten Aegir members fill the public gallery at Groningen city hall.
Their worries are threefold. First, they are concerned that the quays at the Noord-Willems channel, where both the Gyas students and the junior and senior rowers from De Hunze, practise, may receive steel dam walls. ‘This would turn the channel into a wave pool. Rowing in that is comparable to having to play football on a field full of molehills’, Janssen says.
‘The east side has been replaced by a dam wall, and we’re already suffering the consequences. Now they want to do the same on the west side. That would mean that twelve-year-olds just starting out will have to learn how to row in a wave pool. Capsizing in water like that is quite dangerous.’
Janssen also criticises the municipality’s communications, especially about agreements concerning the southern ring road’s reconstruction. ‘We understand that the road is necessary and that a temporary fly-over will pass straight by our property. But the municipality and the contractor often give us incomplete or incorrect information. And then they blame each other for it. And we’re facing a housing problem: our building has an 800-people capacity, but we expect to exceed 1,200 members this year.’
Groningen politicians are unanimous on the issue: something needs to be done. Alderman Paul de Rook says: ‘Concerning their housing problem: we didn’t respond to that in time and we need to get on that post-haste. They have a real need, and we would like to help them figure it out.’ The communication concerning the ring road can and should be better, De Rook says.
The third worry concerns ‘The Hell of the North’, a national rowing competition Aegir organises every year. Because the sport has become more popular, the club wanted to push back the start time a few years ago, whereupon the municipality pushed it forward. ‘We used to start at 8:30 in the morning and we wanted to change it to 8, or spread the event out over two days. Instead we were given a permit to start at 9 a.m.’, says Aegir president Lotje Mulder. ‘And the request to spread the competition out over two days was denied as well.’