rantz by lantz – news and notes from the world of sports
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Devon Boathouse christening drew an exuberant and excited crowd to blu2010, the unveiling ceremonies of the latest addition to Regatta Park on the Oklahoma River on Thursday evening.
Keynote speakers at the event included the president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Scott Blackmun, who expressed his gratitude toward the city of Oklahoma City. Robert Henry, President of Oklahoma City University, expanded on the idea that the boathouse is the culmination of a dream that has been many years in the making. Henry called Oklahoma City, “a premier destination for both world-class rowing and canoe/kayak.”
The state-of-the art boathouse located in downtown Oklahoma City is the premier river sport facility not only in Oklahoma or the nation, but the world.
This weekend is an opportunity to enjoy more of the boathouse, along with racing on the Oklahoma River at the Head of the Oklahoma Regatta hosted by OCU. Racing will be from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and continues at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday for the final day of competition. Parking and admission is free to the public.
“We set out to create the most technologically advanced boathouse in the world,” OCU rowing coach Mike Knopp said. “The idea of the boathouse is that is has the high-performance function in mind, which differentiates it from the Chesapeake Boathouse and the other boathouses that will be in Regatta Park.”
The boathouse, which is more than twice the size of its neighboring Chesapeake Boathouse, will have ample room for indoor training, on-the-water simulations, and more. Aside from housing the Oklahoma City University rowing team, shells and offices, the Devon Boathouse is also home to the Oklahoma City National High Performance Center. The Devon Boathouse will be a training ground for USRowing and US Canoe/Kayak.
“We’re at the brink here of something very special,” Devon Energy President and Chief Executive Officer John Richels said at the dedication. “There are not very many cities in the world that ever get the opportunity to be associated with the Olympic movement, let alone to have a venue that’s been dedicated as an Olympic training site.”
Some of the most advanced innovations in the sport of rowing are present in the facility.
“We’re introducing the world’s first dynamic propulsion rowing tank,” Knopp said of one of the unique features of the boathouse. “This tank allows athletes to train indoors in an environment very similar to being on the water. The tank will help rowers refine their technique in close proximity to coaches to get better instruction. Technique is critical to success in our sport, so this is a state-of-the art development for rowing.”
A hypoxic room is another enhancement featured at the Devon Boathouse. The room allows athletes to train in a simulated high-altitude environment.
“Another critical feature of the Devon Boathouse is essentially an altitude chamber to train in,” Knopp explained. “We will put cardio equipment and rowing machines in the room, and about five athletes can train at one time. This will be another feature to give our rowers a competitive edge.”
Knopp also regards the endless pool located on the second floor of the boathouse as a major amenity to the Devon Boathouse.
“It is a propulsion pool which allows athletes a cross-training opportunity,” Knopp said. “It will be good for rehabilitation and hydrotherapy for after training sessions for the rowers. The pool is not only for rowers, but also other athletes and swimmers working on their technique.”
While these amenities and more are great tools for the athletes to utilize, this boathouse is more than just a place to train and learn.
“I think it really symbolizes how much more goes into winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games than just what happens on the water,” Joe Jacobi, Olympic gold medalist and Executive Director of US Canoe/Kayak said. “You need a place where you can build camaraderie. You need a place where you can build yourself physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally. Those are the key points, and a boathouse like this really does that.”
The effect the Devon Boathouse will have on the OCU river sports programs is immense.
“There are athletes here that are post-graduate and they are here to pursue their Olympic dreams under the direction of USRowing,” Knopp said of the shared OCU and USRowing and US Canoe/Kayak space. “It’s very inspiring and motivating to our rowers, and it raises the bar for us to be around athletes to be around goal-minded individuals. It allows our athletes to see what it’s all about and what they have to work towards.”
Jacobi said, “The Devon Boathouse is going to help our athletes at Oklahoma City University. When they’ve got those athletes of Olympic-caliber that are coming through the revolving door of the Devon Boathouse they’re going to get better tenfold and way faster so it’s very exciting. We’ve just set a whole new standard.”
The regatta marks the 10th anniversary of the introduction of rowing to OCU as a club sport. OCU added rowing as a varsity sport in 2003-04.
“This is the 10-year anniversary of rowing at OCU,” Knopp said. “So it’s particularly special that exactly 10 years after starting our program, we’ll be opening one of the finest boathouses in the world as a way to commemorate our anniversary.”
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett pointed out that the dedication of the boathouse is not the final project that the city will be supporting at Regatta Park.
“We have a lot more to come,” Cornett said. “MAPS 3 is going to allow us to build permanent grandstands, permanent lighting and a whitewater facility and a number of other amenities to this location. So while there aren’t a lot of cities in the world investing in the sports of rowing, canoe and kayak, Oklahoma City is all in, and we are building the finest facilities in the world.”