River revamp

The river was carved out by
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the 1950s. It was virtually dry for
years, until the first MAPS initiative in the early 1990s paid for dams
and locks to fill it with water.

In
2005, the $3.5 million Chesapeake Boathouse opened. It was followed by a
boathouse sponsored by Devon Energy Corp. for Oklahoma City University.
The Chesapeake Finish Line Tower opened in 2011.

As
an official Olympic training site, and host to an annual regatta, the
river offers plenty to do in the water, but Boathouse Foundation
Executive Director Mike Knopp also is interested in improving the
shoreline. Plans are in place for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Adventure
Zone and the SandRidge Youth Pavilion.

“With
these attractions, the Boathouse District is really going to become a
destination for families,” Knopp says. “Everything has a sports
connection: It’s all about getting people active.”

New
additions on the horizon include boathouses for the University of
Oklahoma and the University of Central Oklahoma. MAPS 3 will provide $60
million for such amenities as a windscreen on the south bank, lighting,
spectator stands and a white-water rapids attraction.

FEELING BLUE

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Adventure Zone is budgeted at $600,000. It
will expand on an existing playground, and offer activities for kids,
including a junior zip line, a Sky Tykes ropes course and a giant
“pillow” for jumping.

“Kids will get to do everything their parents and the older kids are doing,” Knopp says.

A portion of the attraction is set to open by the end of this month, and will be fully operational by next spring.

SAND BOX

The
14,000-square-foot, $8 million SandRidge Youth Pavilion will sit along
the river, with its top attraction being an 80-foot-high zip line, which
will send riders 700 feet across the
river to a tower on the other side. They can then turn around and zip
back. The Pavilion building also will house the indoor surf park, the
OKC Riversport organization, summer camps and community events.

“SandRidge
has supported youth programs at the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation
since its inception,” says Greg Dewey, SandRidge vice president of
communications and community relations. “These programs, which now reach
more than 700 students per year, needed a permanent home. We support
Oklahoma’s youth in a number of ways, and this is another opportunity
for us to do that.”

IN THE BOAT

New
collegiate boathouses are also in the works. OU plans to build its
16,000-square-foot, $3.5 million boathouse for the university’s Division
I rowing program. UCO’s CHK Central Boathouse, carrying the Chesapeake
Energy initials, was funded with an initial $3 million investment from
the company toward the $6 million project.

Mark
Herrin, UCO assistant vice president of wellness and sport, says that,
in addition to housing the university’s intercollegiate rowing program,
the boathouse will serve another purpose.

“UCO
has been tasked to bring the arts into the mix,” he says. “We’ll have a
venue for a variety of different musical styles, and a display area for
artwork.”

Herrin says the university is wrapping up fund development, and hopes to break ground in early 2013.

Knopp notes that the district will be a destination for professional athletes, river enthusiasts and everyone else.

“We’ve got this really great outdoor resource,” he says. “What we’re doing down here is for everyone, not just elite athletes.”

Left: Provided by Boathouse Foundation

Top: Mike Knopp, Boathouse Foundation executive director

Photo by Mark Hancock

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