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OKLAHOMA CITY: Rowing Into The Future

OKLAHOMA CITY: Rowing Into The Future

Posted Friday, May 1, 2015   |   1797 views   |   Sport   |   Comments (0) A wasteland formerly used for flood control ditches has been transformed into a world class rowing venue.

In the late 1970s in Oklahoma, there were ditches for flood control maintained by the Corps of Engineers where the Boathouse District now stands. By the late 1990s, a master plan was in place, which envisaged transforming this underdeveloped and forgotten area of Oklahoma City into a vibrant, world-class rowing centre. One man, Mike Knopp, now executive director of Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation, saw what no one else did: he saw a ditch wide enough to become a lake and hold seven boats abreast on a course 5000 metres long, which was sheltered and looked like it had been built for the sport.

Knopp graduated from law school, rowed in college and loved the sport.

He was a visionary, and saw not only rowing but a chance to bring together the two halves of Oklahoma City, split by the Oklahoma River. Now in 2014, the Boathouse District links both halves. Coincidently, two interstate highways – 35 and 40 – cross hairs directly on the Boathouse District, as if emphasising this location as a new international rowing centre, 1500 miles from the East and West Coasts, the traditional breeding ground of America’s Olympic rowers.

Knopp needed to translate his vision into boathouses. He needed an inspirational architect, and chose Rand Elliott of Elliot Associate Architects in Oklahoma City to create a master plan for the site, which took him six months and was completed in the late ‘90s. Now known as the Boathouse District, Rand created some inspiring designs and Knopp had something to show prospective financial backers. His thoughts were that there was only one chance to pitch for this place if it was going to be turned into a world-class rowing centre. Two local energy companies saw the potential to invest. Chesapeake Energy financed the Chesapeake Boathouse, which was the first to be built, and Devon Energy financed the Devon Boathouse. Rand Elliott’s plan incorporated a third boathouse, the CHK/Central Boathouse, to be completed in 2015, and the Finish Line Tower, which was completed a couple of years ago.
Each boathouse makes its own architectural statement in design and reflects the occupying rowing club’s colours. The result of the plan was to create a campus eect, embracing dierent areas of interest for the adults and children of Oklahoma City, and a design to provide an inspirational experience for future rowing champions.

The Chesapeake Boathouse is home to the Oklahoma City Rowing Club as well as fifty corporate rowing teams, a very strong youth programme, and an events and training centre, all aimed at involving the local community.

River Sport Adventures in the Boathouse District provides activities for adventurous members of the family. Attractions include zip wire and rope lines, all designed to encourage visitors to overcome personal issues through physical challenges on the SandRidge Sky Trail, the tallest adventure course in the world. Try the 80-foot rumble drop freefall, the Sky Slide, the Kayak, or hop in a dragon boat and rope course, again aimed at involving the community and to try to establish the Boathouse District as a destination for family days out.

The Chesapeake Finish Line Tower is the newest iconic structure along the Oklahoma River. It includes a Boathouse District Welcome Centre, Finish Line jury and timing seats, the commentary and media positions, as well as race control, and the top level is a viewing gallery and observation deck, open year-round. The CHK Central Boathouse will be for the rowing club of the University of Central Oklahoma and will be completed in 2015 and will contain in addition an art gallery and music centre.

The Devon Boathouse is designed specifically as a high-performance centre and is home to the US Rowing Lightweight team. It is also the boathouse for the Oklahoma City University. All four buildings are on the north bank of the race course. The Boathouse District now supports 250 events a year, including regattas, weddings and night rowing, which is popular owing to the cooler temperatures for rowers and spectators like. Devon Boathouse was completed in 2010, serving as an anchor building for the Boathouse District. This $10 million boathouse is home to the Oklahoma City University Rowing Club and canoe/kayak headquarters, and the ORC National High Performance Centre, offering advanced technology with training facilities used by Olympic hopefuls and collegiate athletes in both rowing and canoe/kayak. It is available for use by the community as well, and bookings are taken from all over the USA to train rowing teams.

The design as described by Rand Elliott is inspired by the prow of a boat speeding towards the finish line. The leading edge of the boathouse is only 10 metres from the water’s edge. There is a strong structural ribbing raking futuristically up to the leading edge of the structure, prominently visible from within and outside the building, taking its inspiration from boat design. These ribs are illuminated by blue LED lighting at night, reflecting the colours of the Oklahoma City University rowing club. Sharp, precise, refined, functional and elegant, the building’s design easily conjures ideas of focused determination and achievement.
The Devon Boathouse offers many training modules:

1. The most significant is the Dynamic Propulsion Tank, the only one of its kind in the world. The mechanism allows the individual to row as he or she would in the water, with the ability to accommodate anything from a single to eights. The water responds to their energy need and is driven by two giant propellers. The performance levels can be adjusted to suit the individual or team. The coach mans the propulsion device to make performance adjustments as needed. Being indoors, it is available 12 months a year. Cameras are installed to allow the coach to work with individuals to correct and improve their rowing techniques.

2. The High Altitude Training Chamber allows up to four athletes at a time to use rowing machines, bikes and treadmills at an artificial altitude of 12000 feet. This method of training has been shown to improve strength, power, and endurance, which results in more speed, less fatigue and improved recovery.

3. The Endless Pool swim tank features hydrotherapy jets and benches for athletes. A training area holds ice baths and therapy tables.

4. Strength and conditioning equipment includes rowing machines, treadmills, and kayaking machines. Olympic-style free weights on both floors feature a camera system, enabling athletes to check their lifting techniques.

5. Olympic weight training room and cardiovascular equipment.

6. The Ann Lacy Event Centre offers a double level D event space for weddings, receptions, business meetings and so on. The ground-level space accommodates up to 350 guests, and opens onto an outdoor event deck accommodating upwards of 500 guests. The second-level gallery can accommodate up to 200 guests. Being in the ‘prow’ of the building, guests enjoy fantastic views of the river.

7. Four boat bays provide storage for 100 boats and a repair bay with direct access to the launching inlet.

8. Men’s and women’s locker rooms, including showers and dressing areas with 60 lockers in each.

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