Our History

The history and legacy of the boathouse –

A note from our current President and Legacy Foundation member, John McLain.

Lake Brantley Rowing Association 2000 – Present

While Lake Brantley Rowing Association has existed since 1988, it had not become a sizable program until 2000.  At that time, the program operated from a single bay shared with the Orlando Rowing Club Master’s Program and a club from Bishop Moore.  Even though we had approximately eighty rowers in the program, the club made do with four boats.

In 2002, we began to receive messages from the City of Orlando that they wished for us to vacate the city-owned Orlando Rowing Club Boathouse at the Fairview Park located on Lee Road. The club also received messages that the City of Orlando would build a boathouse for Edgewater High School on the adjoining property.

We attempted to make an arrangement wherein the Lake Brantley Rowing Association could increase its rent or even build its own boathouse by Edgewater High School’s boathouse to no avail. In a nutshell, the city leaders of Orlando, including Mayor Buddy Dyer, believed that a Seminole County program should not have access to a city-owned facility.

This seemed somewhat non-sensical since many of the members of the Lake Brantley program also conduct their business in Orange County. Most people did not understand why a county boundary issue would be raised when there was no indication that the space was needed for an Orange County program at the time.

We had to leave.

We received the news on December of 2003, in the middle of our season. Lake Brantley Rowing Association was told that their welcome had been worn out after the program had been able to delay the vacation order for over a year.  Imagine being told that you would have to move your program and all those boats.

The group that later became known as the LBRA Legacy Foundation explored all possibilities in Seminole County. Lake Brantley itself is surrounded by private development and has no public access.  It also has high boat traffic in the evenings. It was determined that there were no realistic properties available for the association to use or buy in Seminole County.

Lake Monroe is farther than Lake Fairview and is a very rough lake. We decided that it was neither safe nor beneficial to have Lake Brantley students travel to Sanford each day for its rowing program. Other locations explored included Lake Lotus, Prairie Lake, and Bear Lake, among others.

The warehouse on Lee Road and Silver Star Road.

For approximately two years, the club used a warehouse previously used by a roofing company while searching for a place to build a permanent home as quickly as possible. Members of the club installed makeshift racks and preserved the equipment in this improvised facility until the warehouse owners determined that they could rent the space to someone able to pay a fair market rent.

This was another blow to the club, but we pushed on. During the period 2004 to 2007 – the program faced many obstacles.  As indicated, the club was required to vacate the low-rent warehouse space on Lake Fairview. The club was able to secure the use of land at the VFW Hall located on Edgewater Drive.

This space was not covered and was an unprotected area. As a result, boats suffered significant weather damage, and several motors costing thousands of dollars were stolen during this period. As expected, the club was told that they would not be able to use this property permanently and whether the VFW would continue to exist was also in question.

Should we buy some land?

LBRA had been in existence since 1988, and the members had spent their own money to buy boats and equipment. This established the Lake Brantley Rowing Association as a legitimate entity, winning its first state championship in 2002.

It was apparent then that if we did not find a permanent home for LBRA, the equipment would be exposed to the elements, and real estate development would eventually mean that we would have no access to the lake. The club decided to buy land at 4217 North Orange Blossom Trail and closed on that property in August of 2004.  This was when the LBRA Legacy Foundation, Inc. was established as a not-for-profit corporation, as any bank that would provide a loan to the club would require some type of permanent ownership and continued involvement.

LBRA Legacy Foundation, Inc. became a permanent titleholder to the property, guaranteeing the loan required to purchase the property and ensuring that the club paid all costs.  No Legacy member has or will receive any financial benefit for the purchase or use of the property. Each LBRA Legacy Foundation member contributed over $10,000 each, and approximately $85,000 was raised between the LBRA Legacy members, club members, and various businesses to purchase the property.

The Lake Brantley Rowing Association Board of Directors voted to form the LBRA Legacy Foundation, Inc. based upon a similar model at Winter Park High School. This approved the purchase of the land and building of a boathouse.  The land was purchased in August of 2004 for $430,000, with the expectation that a boathouse would cost approximately $275,000.


Despite the not-for-profit status of the Lake Brantley Rowing Association, Orange County insisted on charging taxes on the property before any boathouse had been purchased.  The property taxes ranged from $10,000 to $12,000 per year. We no longer have to pay real estate taxes because the boathouse was completed, and we can now offer services to our members.

Have you ever heard it said that if you build it and they will come?

Have you ever attempted to build something on vacant land?  During the permitting process, the club was required to make three submissions to get permission to build a boathouse on the property.  Each time one department made a change to plans, it called for an entirely new submission.

In other words, if one department at the end of the process determined that a retention pond was required, we faced a total revamping of the entire property. Eventually, the county expressed to the club that getting water and sewer to the property would require a lift station and site work costing over $400,000.  Obviously, this was a significant obstacle.

Can we stay together?

Can we keep the club together?  Emotions were running high, and the club was faced with a decision to put the property up for sale or continue with its efforts to complete the project. Against the backdrop of losing its ability to row at the Orlando Rowing Club, the Fairview warehouse, and the VFW Center, the club voted to continue its building project.

Based upon the initial advice of its contractor and civil engineer, the LBRA Legacy Foundation had borrowed a total of $626,500 as the estimate that had been provided to build the initial boathouse.  Because of the changes required by the county, this amount of money was going to be insufficient to complete the project.

A proposal was made to the board that would provide an interest-free loan to the club.  Everyone agreed that the total payment of the club would be limited to a total of $7,525.  This was the amount already being paid for the land loan, rent, and property taxes. Everyone understood that this was a considerable amount to cover each month, but we believed in the future of our club and the ability of our rowers and coaches.

We knew that this would be a fixed cost rather than a cost that could increase in the future. Like all other proposals, this proposal was unanimously approved by the Board of Directors of the Lake Brantley Rowing Association as documented by the historical minutes concerning such decisions.

A Promise to always look ahead.

The dedication of the Lake Brantley Rowing association boathouse happened on December 18, 2008.  The cost of the final project was $1,271,000, more than double the original estimate. The cost of the land was $430,000.  The cost of the actual boathouse was indeed about $275,000. But the cost to clear and prepare the land was far beyond what the county, our contractor, and civil engineer had led us to believe.  But the club fulfilled its desire to provide the Lake Brantley Rowing Association with a permanent home!


The club continues to meet its financial obligations.  In fact, the club payment has now been reduced by over 1,000 to a total amount of $6,700. Based on current payments, we expect to pay off the banknote by July 2024 and the interest-free loan by 2026. As of July 25, 2018, the club’s total obligation to all its loans is $536,122.41.

The original LBRA Legacy Foundation, Inc. members are as follows:

  1. John and Robbie McLain
  2. Keith and Becky Begley
  3. Kate and Miles Landis
  4. Bruce and Kathy Rogers
  5. Paul and Linda Larson
  6. Jim and Carol Detzel

A final philosophy statement.

Many members faced a dilemma in 2003 as to whether to close the doors of Lake Brantley Rowing Association and whether the efforts made by so many during the preceding fifteen years would be wasted.  Many individuals during the preceding fifteen years had contributed to something greater than themselves. They had bought boats, equipment, etc., that would be lost forever.

The LBRA Legacy Foundation, Inc. was given its name as a reflection that those past and present, voting and working together, would leave a legacy behind for others to follow.   As you read this history, we hope that you will recognize that while there are costs associated with the program, ultimately, the sacrifice of others and yourselves will leave a legacy for future generations to enjoy.

Lake Brantley Rowing Association has touched many individuals’ lives in many ways, helping people grow physically, academically, and develop lifelong friendships.  Lake Brantley Rowing Association has continued to win championships and produce many athletic scholarships to Duke University, the University of Central Florida, Princeton University, Cornell University, Syracuse University, University of Tennessee, and Boston College.  These are just recent scholarships, and a complete list can be found on the website.

It is the desire of the Directors of LBRA Legacy Foundation, Inc. that future generations enjoy all the benefits of a program that contributed so mightily to each of our lives.

John E. McLain III
President, LBRA Legacy Foundation, Inc.
July 25, 2018

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