Okies from Muskogee may soon become as good at paddling as Merle Haggard is at finger picking.
Riversport Rapids, Oklahoma City’s new $45.2 million whitewater rafting and kayaking center, is holding its grand opening celebration May 7-8 after nearly 10 years of planning and building. Included in the amenities: the world’s highest-volume, fully adjustable pumped freestyle feature, at 1,200 to 1,400 cfs.
“We’re super excited about the world’s most modern whitewater park,” says venue designer and five-time World Slalom Kayak Champion Scott Shipley of S2O Design. “The park builds off of the lessons learned from the U.S. National Whitewater Center—the world’s most profitable whitewater park. We’ve tried to include something for everyone, with kids play areas, a concert stage, a paddle-in movie theater, an Olympic-standard course, a recreational course and a game-changing freestyle feature.”
Riversport Rapids is one of only three man-made whitewater venues in the nation. Six pumps recirculate treated water through two channels to create Class II-IV rapids, with flows adjustable to offer various experiences. “Its design is not a pure whitewater one,” says S2O program manager Jeffrey Gustin. “We designed a venue that provides Olympic standard whitewater but also a place for everyone to enjoy, beginner to expert.”
The whitewater center was built in the city’s Boathouse District as part of MAPS 3, a one-cent sales tax initiative to fund projects that enhance the quality of life for metro area residents.
“You’ll never find a better weekend to experience all that the Boathouse District has to offer,” adds Mike Knopp, executive director of the OKC Boathouse Foundation. “It will offer a taste of what the Olympics in Rio are all about, letting spectators see the nation’s top whitewater slalom athletes in action. They’ll also be able to watch rowing on the Oklahoma River and enjoy live music, great food and fireworks.”
The OKC Boathouse Foundation will operate the new whitewater center and will offer recreational rafting, kayaking and tubing along with adventure activities, rafting and kayaking lessons, leagues and camps. The adventures and whitewater activities will be open to the public, with day and season passes available.
The grand opening will also feature Team USA’s Road to Rio Tour presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance, an interactive tour giving fans a chance to experience the spirit of the Olympics, try their hand at some of the sports and meet Team USA athletes (the Oklahoma City park is one of six stops on Team USA’s nation-wide tour). The weekend will also include the US Olympic Trials on the new whitewater course, featuring athletes from across the U.S. vying for a chance to compete at Rio; and a rowing regatta on the Oklahoma River, featuring 1,500 youth rowers competing in the US Rowing Central District Youth Championships.
“We want to let as many people as possible get on the water during this opening weekend,” Knopp says. “We want everyone to experience it.”