A concept once considered a "pipe dream” by city leaders became a reality Friday as boat passenger service began on the Oklahoma River. The Oklahoma River Cruises, which have been offered via charter since the first of three boats arrived in Oklahoma City late last year, opened to regular passenger service between Regatta Park south of Bricktown to Meridian, near the hotel corridor. Former Mayor Ron Norick, chairman of the city's Riverfront Redevelopment Authority, said the idea of river cruises seemed outlandish in his days as mayor. "Probably 15 years ago I wouldn't have thought this possible,” Norick said. "I knew we were going to put water in the river, but to be able to actually put cruisers on here and have a transportation link, I think back then would have been considered a pipe dream.” Part of the problem would have been getting a boat into the river in the first place. Before MAPS passed in 1993, the river was usually a pile of dirt with a trickle of water running through it. City leaders included the river in the MAPS projects, and dams built along the river as it winds its way through the center of the city ensured a consistent water level allowing boat travel. Like development in Bricktown, development along the river would require participation from the private sector. Devon Energy paid $2 million of the $3 million price for the three river cruisers, two of which are already ferrying passengers. The third boat is expected to arrive soon. Larry Nichols, Devon's chief executive officer, said businesses are willing to invest when the city is willing to invest in itself as it did with MAPS. "It really laid the foundation for this river and the foundation of resurgence of all of Oklahoma City,” Nichols said of MAPS. "Here you see yet another testament to how the business community of Oklahoma City has played their role in the rebirth of this community. Devon is very proud to play the role we have in financing these three new river boat cruisers.” Mayor Mick Cornett said he expects the cruises will catch on quickly. "I think this is going to be the thing to do in Oklahoma City for the rest of this year,” Cornett said.
IF YOU GO
River cruises•Cost: One way: Adults $9, children (6-12) $6, seniors (60+) $4.50. Round trip: Adults $12, children $8, seniors $6. •When: The first boat leaves Regatta Park at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday. The last boat arrives at 5:15 p.m. each day.