GETTING OFF THE GROUND: The idea of a community sailing and rowing center first came to Larry Vitez in 2005. As a Charlotte resident, life-long sailor, member of a local yacht club, and recreational rower, Larry saw successful community boating centers in other cities and thought Charlotte would be receptive. The logical partner was Mecklenburg County Parks & Recreation because they had three beautiful parks on Lake Norman but offered no programming. The plan was to offer - at no cost to the park department - a privately funded and operated community sailing and rowing center at one of the lake front parks. They were unfamiliar with the concept but were both receptive and skeptical that one person could pull it off. The park and recreation department was supportive and ultimately a terrific partner, but they had policies and procedures designed to steward the public’s property that were inconsistent with the vision and energy of an entrepreneur like Vitez. It took almost four years to secure the needed County Commission approval and a signed lease.
DOORS OPEN: Fund raising began in earnest in the fall of 2008 when it became clear the lease would be approved. Doors opened in April 2009 with Garth Pearce on staff as our first Center Director and about 25 sailboats ready to go. Larry found 20 high school aged kids interested in an after school learn to sail program in 420 sailboats, and coached the inaugural season.
WORKING OUT THE KINKS: Challenges remained for the first three years because of the lease. The concept of a community sailing and rowing center was so foreign to many that there were concerns for the safety of the sailors and rowers, causing the landlord to restrict hours of operation to weekdays and weekend mornings. Then there was the issue of operating without a dedicated dock that took two years to permit and install. NCCS rowers had been unable to row at Blythe Landing until the dock was installed. The local YMCA generously allowed rowers to train on their waterfront. The dock was the platform that literally launched the rowing programs and both sailing and rowing activities then grew quickly. The plastic modular dock became the backbone of NCCS programs and remains so today.
In November 2013, the competitive adult rowing and all youth rowing decided to establish their own organization - Belmont Rowing Center - to best serve the growing competitive programs.
In April 2012, the Center Administrator position was added. Christy Lux filled that position and transformed operations at the Center. In November 2012, Sean O'Donnell was named Center Director. Together "Team O'Donnellux" has built on the foundation laid by their predecessors, expanding program offerings, office hours and placing extra emphasis on quality and execution.
NAME CHANGE: In May 2015, North Carolina Community Sailing began doing business as Lake Norman Community Sailing to better describe the community we serve and the access we offer. Today LNCS continues to have a strong board of directors, dedicated staff and over 60 boats for the public to enjoy.
KEELBOAT/CRUISING FLEET ESTABLISHED: In 2015 we began hosting yearly charter trips on the Chesapeake Bay for our members. In 2016 we added our first keelboat, a Hunter 25, to our fleet for Pass Holder use.