Jim Andersen Takes a Gamble on Rowing in Las Vegas
By Genevieve Carrillo • January 31, 2017
The state of Nevada has the highest concentration of gold out of any state in the nation. Nationally respected rowing coach and former University of California coxswain, Jim Andersen, is looking to bring more gold to the desert by introducing competitive rowing to Las Vegas.
Andersen began his love for rowing in the eighth grade as a coxswain at the Shawnigan Lake School in British Columbia and then went on to cox at the University of California. He has been a coach almost every year since 1982 and was also one of the founders of the CanAmMex Regatta.
While traveling in 2016, he stopped by Las Vegas and fell in love with Lake Las Vegas, seeing potential in a lake most had previously ignored.
“My mantra has always been to give back, and I’ve been very lucky,” said Andersen. “It’s always fun to see people grow into a program, and to see what they become.”
The nearest university to the lake is Nevada State College, a small public college formed in 2002 with roughly 3,500 students. Before 2016, the College had existed without any organized sports teams, and for Andersen, this was an opportunity to introduce the sport of rowing to a whole new audience.
Once word spread around Las Vegas of the new rowing team, Andersen suddenly had interest from both potential masters and junior rowers; and wasted no time in forming a board of directors and getting space to keep ergs and boats.
In September 2016, The Lake Las Vegas Rowing Club was officially formed, and the Nevada State College rowing team was back on the water for fall practices. Andersen aims to get his athletes out on the water three times a week to practice to train them while catering around students’ schedules.
“The kids at Nevada State College are incredibly hard working,” said Andersen. “But beyond school, most of the students here have full-time jobs.”
During his time at Oklahoma City, Andersen saw the program grow from 30 junior athletes to over 140. Now as head coach for both Nevada State College and the Lake Las Vegas Rowing Club, Andersen is hoping to produce the same results.
“I wouldn’t be where I am right now without seeing what Mike Knopp did in Oklahoma City,” said Andersen.
It hasn’t always been easy work to get the club up and running, especially for a rowing club located on a privately-owned lake where the average summertime temperatures are well over 100 degrees.
“Everyone, including community members, has been incredibly supportive, and I’m looking forward to the next three, four and five years,” said Andersen. “In five years, we will look back and laugh at the starting process.”
Lake Las Vegas is a small, human-made lake, created in 1990. The area around the lake houses three resorts, including the Aston MonteLago Village Resort, the Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort, and the Hilton Lake Las Vegas.
According to Andersen, the conditions of the lake are nearly flawless. The lake has 3,500 meters of rowable space, with room for an eight-lane 2,000-meter rowing course. This, combined with Las Vegas being a cheap flight destination with many affordable hotels, makes Lake Las Vegas the perfect place to hold races, and Andersen is wasting no time with planning.
The Scorpions will be hosting their first home regatta, the Lake Las Vegas Collegiate International, on March 4-5, 2017, featuring duel-style racing down the course. Although NSC Crew hasn’t had the opportunity to do many formal races, they are looking to draw spectators from around the U.S. by inviting some the nation’s top men’s and women’s teams including the University of Washington and University of Southern California for women and Oregon State, UCSB and San Diego State University for men.