Oklahoma City gets $60 million for a Whitewater Park
By Carol Cole-Frowe
Oklahoma city paddlers will get a new whitewater park the size of Charlotte, North Carolina’s Olympic training center after a $60 million win in city elections on Tuesday, Dec. 8.
Voters passed $777 million dollars worth of projetcts known locally as “MAPS 3,” by a 54 percent to 46 percent margin in unofficial totals with all precincts reporting. The Metropolitan Area Projects are funded by a one-penny sales tax, and are the third such group of projects passed by Oklahoma City voters to rejuvenate the city and improve quality of life.
Included in the $60 million paddle sports portion is $25 million for a whitewater course modeled after the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, N.C. Another $35 million will be spent on expanded grandstands on the Oklahoma River, a new sound system, scoreboard, floating stage, river beautification and permanent sports-venue lighting. “I’m encouraged and I’m intent to make sure it all happens,” said Mayor Mick Cornett, a former television sportscaster who was the city’s biggest cheerleader in a citywide weight-loss plan and said he wanted many of the projects geared to get Oklahomans outside and active.
The first MAPS vote in 1993 provided $53 million to improve the Oklahoma River including three dams and a series of locks that allow boats to go through the seven miles of river. It resulted in a popular rowing and kayaking venue–part of the North Canadian River, the seven mile stretch of dams and locks was renamed the Oklahoma River when the park was first designated. Earlier this year, Oklahoma City was named a rowing and kayaking training site for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams. The MAPS tax is planned to last seven years and nine months. It starts April 1.
No start date has been discussed for the paddle sports projects as the $777 million in projects are completed on a pay-as-you-go basis.
U.S. Canoe and Kayak opened an office in Oklahoma City last month.