Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rollin' on the River, Okie Style

I'm sure most of you people wake up on Sunday morning and say to yourselves, "gee, I wish I knew more about Oklahoma!" Well I live to serve.

Did you know that Oklahoma City is becoming the rowing mecca of the USA? It's in the NY Times, so it must be true.

We made ourselves a river, an entertainment and shopping district sprung up around it, and a displaced east coast rowing enthusiast waged virtually a one man campaign to have a rowing course included in the development.

Mike Knopp spent enough time walking through weeds and biking through a dried-up drainage ditch to come to a startling conclusion: What a perfect spot for a rowing course. The only thing missing was water. That same spot, now a controlled waterway stretching along the southern edge of downtown Oklahoma City, was host to an exhibition event last week featuring Olympic-caliber rowers from around the world. Only a few years ago, the river existed only in Knopp’s imagination.

Fewer than three years after the river was dedicated, Oklahoma City is quickly becoming a hub for Olympic-style water sports. Beyond the USA Rowing World Challenge this week, the Oklahoma River has been chosen to play host to the Olympic trials for canoeing and kayaking next spring. “We have gone from the Dust Bowl to the River City,” said Pat Downes, the economic development director for the Oklahoma City Riverfront Redevelopment Authority. “We have gone from mowing to rowing on the river, and all in a very short period of time.”Oklahoma City’s ascension in the rowing world has been so quick because of that old real estate adage: location, location, location. The course is south of downtown and the Bricktown entertainment district, making it friendly for spectators, sponsors and the news media. Unlike in Europe, where elite rowers and kayakers routinely draw 30,000 or more fans at world-class events, there are relatively few urban settings in the United States that can provide the same atmosphere. “Anywhere that our athletes go where there’s more people, more excitement, more enthusiasm, that’s better,” said David Yarborough, the executive director of the United States association for canoeing and kayaking. In its third year, the Head of the Oklahoma Regatta, held by Oklahoma City University, drew 30,000 spectators last year and will be a part of the festivities this weekend, including exhibitions featuring teams from the United States, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Switzerland and Moldova.

I guess I'll have to make do with this until we get the Sonics!!