While Oklahoma City may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about great whitewater, that may change in just a few seasons.
The city is curently home to the national office of USA Canoe Kayak, the governing body for paddling Olympians and Olympic hopefuls, and it recently approved the construction of a downtown whitewater course, to be designed by former Olympic whitewater paddler Scott Shipley.
The soon-to-be-constructed park is a part of an ongoing economic development effort that has revitalized the city’s seven-mile long downtown riverfront known as the Boathouse District, which already boasts flatwater offerings and other outdoor recreation.
The City of Oklahoma City recently awarded S2o Design and Engineering the contract to design the city’s Whitewater Park. Based on the course S2o designed for the London 2012 Olympics, the $16 million whitewater park project will feature a variety of manmade pumped channels that create whitewater for paddlers of all abilities.
The park is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2015. The project is tasked with providing water-based family recreation for the Oklahoma City community, in a facility that also attracts tourism from around the region and that can host large national and international level paddling events. It will create whitewater for kayaking, canoeing, commercial rafting and other water-based recreation along the Oklahoma River near Bricktown, in downtown Oklahoma City.
The intersection of Interstates 35 and 40 will overlook the whitewater park, making it one of the most prominent whitewater rapids in the world—a perfect showcase for future events.
“We have created a unique destination in the Boathouse District with the Chesapeake and Devon Boathouses and the Chesapeake Finish Line Tower creating a world-class setting for rowing and flatwater kayaking,” said Mike Knopp, executive director of the OKC Boathouse Foundation. “Adding whitewater sports at this same level of excellence creates incredible opportunities for athletes as well as to recreational paddlers. It will be a huge addition to Oklahoma City’s outdoor sports offerings.”
“This is a project where we had the opportunity to put our best innovations and best partners into a single team,” said Shipley. Shipley competed in K-1 on the 1992, 1996 and 2000 US Olympic teams. He earned three World Cup titles and three silver World Championship medals. “I couldn’t be more excited about what these team members bring to this process and how the park is beginning to take shape.” Shipley’s S2o Design and Engineering of Lyons, Colo., will be joined by Elliott + Associates Architects of Oklahoma City; DHM Design of Denver, Colo.; Cloward and Associates of Provo, Utah; and Triad Design Group Engineering and Pre-Construction Services of Oklahoma City.
Founded in 2003, S2O Design prides itself on innovative and holistic approaches to whitewater park design and has developed patented and patent pending solutions that make whitewater parks easier to operate. In addition to the London 2012 Olympic venue, Shipley designed the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, N.C., and a variety of other whitewater parks around the world with both in-stream and pumped solutions.
The Boathouse District is a new development on the Oklahoma River offering urban adventure sports for all ages. The destination includes the Chesapeake Boathouse, Devon Boathouse and Chesapeake Finish Line Tower and will soon include three additional boathouses and the world-class whitewater rafting/kayaking center. Sports include rowing, kayaking, dragon boating, stand up paddle boarding, indoor rock climbing, cycling and running. Adventure attractions include a zip line and extreme air jumper with the world’s tallest Sky Trail vertical ropes course to be added this spring.