On the banks of the Oklahoma River near downtown Oklahoma City this past week, our community’s vision to create a premier, world-class, Olympic-caliber sports and recreation complex took a giant leap forward when U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Stephanie Streeter made it official — the Oklahoma River has earned the coveted designation as an official Olympic and Paralympics Training Site for rowing, canoeing and kayaking.
The USOC exercises great care when designating an official training site. Communities receive the training site designation because they have invested in facilities, staffing, equipment and athletic training to help Team USA athletes achieve competitive excellence. There is no greater symbol of excellence than the five Olympic rings, which will now proudly fly on the Oklahoma River. In three years, the Oklahoma River has developed an incredible reputation as one of the finest rowing, canoeing and kayaking venues in the world. We have become a significant player in national and international sports world thanks to the Oklahoma River successfully hosting numerous high-profile competitions, including the USA Rowing World Challenge in 2007 and the USA Canoe/Kayak Olympic Trials in 2008. Recently, 50 Olympic-caliber American rowers trained on the Oklahoma River. The world has noticed. Media coverage has generated stories we never could have imagined when voters passed the original MAPS program over 15 years ago. MAPS, which provided funds through a dedi-cated sales tax to build major community improvement projects, has changed the direction of our city. Today, Oklahoma City is consistently ranked among the top 10 places to live, work and play thanks in great measure to the transformation of the Oklahoma River. Our two companies recognize the economic importance of the Oklahoma River, as well as its many contributions to our quality of life.