The mud red rivers and lakes in Oklahoma City may soon be overshadowed by a new, much more pristine water element.
Designers of a proposed white-water racing and training course on the Oklahoma River downtown said the facility, when built, stands to attract Olympic and professional training teams from across the country.
But just as significant, the rapids will be just one more attraction for kids and families citywide to spend some time outdoors in the city's developing boathouse district, said Scott Shipley, president of S2o Design.
“We want that rafting experience to be the gateway to those other outdoor experiences that are already there,” Shipley said. “This park is all about putting down your Nintendo, putting away that 36-ounce Coke and coming down to get active.”
The white-water course is one of several elements of impending development to the riverfront area south of downtown. The $33.3 million project budget comprises more than half of all riverfront improvement funding allocated in the MAPS 3 sales tax projects approved by city voters in 2009.
In January, the advisory board that oversees MAPS projects will recommend the city council begin the process of acquiring more than 11 acres of mostly vacant riverfront property to develop the white-water course.
David Todd, program manager for MAPS 3, said the course will be built on the face of 20-foot hill that will be erected on the property just east of the current rowing facilities.
Gravity will send water rushing through concrete channels and across the elements that will create turbulence for the rapids. Users — on rafts or in kayaks — will traverse the circular course in about six to eight minutes, he said.
Channels will be built for both novices and experts, he said, and the course will be constructed in such a way that the water flow can be controlled and the rapids elements reconfigured to cater to specific types of users.
The water will be filtered and recirculated within the course, he said. The course will not connect to the Oklahoma River.
“The goal is to create a state-of-the-art facility that not only the Olympians can use for training and we can use for races or contests, but all of us in the city can go and learn to kayak,” Todd said. “And you don't have to necessarily be on a kayak because there will also be basically guided rafting tours. It will be just like going down a river in Colorado.”