Rowing has an important place in Pittsburgh’s history. In the 1880’s Pittsburgh had over 20 boathouses, and rowing events attracted tens of thousands of people to cheer on some of the best-known rowers in the country. When the industrial revolution caused Pittsburgh to become ‘the steel capital’ and the nature of work and leisure time changed, rowing disappeared from the landscape. In 1986 the Three Rivers Rowing Association (TRRA) and its premier event, the Head of the Ohio Regatta (HOTO), reinvigorated Pittsburgh’s rowing tradition.
Rowing is a fast-growing recreational activity. Each year more and more individuals and families discover the health benefits of the sport. The mission of TRRA is to develop and deliver safe, sustainable programs and events that promote the benefits of rowing and paddling to a diverse, growing membership of 1,500. TRRA is more than a rowing club; it is an organization dedicated to serving the needs of the community. In 2003 – the inaugural year for the award – USRowing recognized TRRA for its efforts in community outreach and diversity by naming it Club of the Year.
Programs at TRRA touch all segments of the community. Rowing and paddling participants range in age from eight to 80 and reflect the diversity of the Pittsburgh community. Participants are of all levels from beginners and recreational rowers to the competitive league and masters levels. Adaptive rowing programs allow athletes of all abilities to participate including those who are visually impaired.
The Head of the Ohio attracts more than 2,000 rowers from the U.S. and Canada and more than 75 high schools, colleges, universities, and clubs to Pittsburgh’s rivers. HOTO consistently ranks as one of the 10 largest fall races in the country and was the 7th largest in 2006 and 2007. Additionally, thousands of spectators line the shores to cheer on the rowers in this exciting end of summer event.
Before 2005, logistics and administration were coordinated by Mercy Hospital, and the event was a fundraiser to support the hospital’s burn unit. With the hospital’s decision to pursue other opportunities, TRRA now coordinates the Head of the Ohio.
Since its inception, the Head of the Ohio has grown to be more than just a regatta. It has become an established community-wide event and presents a unique opportunity to celebrate the end of summer and Pittsburgh’s renewed river life.