- Jan 30, 2007
- Rogers, Ar
Here is something I'll bet you didn't know about Oklahoma. (and you thought all we did was play football)
The U.S. Rowing Association announced Friday it plans to open a year-round program in Oklahoma City to train the nation’s top young rowers.The program will be geared to developing rowers to compete at the Olympic level.
“We will focus on training the next generation of world-class rowers with an emphasis on the under-23 athlete pool,” said U.S. Rowing Executive Director Glenn Merry. “We also see a future where Oklahoma City serves as the national center for coaching education for U.S. Rowing.”
About a dozen rowers will be in residence by next summer, and the program will ultimately grow to include about 50 athletes, Merry said.
They will live in college dorms at Oklahoma City University and be given local business internship opportunities.
Training will be done initially at the Chesapeake Boathouse along the Oklahoma River, but will move to the Devon Boathouse once it opens in 2010.
The Devon Boathouse, a $10 million facility with more than 40,000 square feet of space, will house a high-performance center for training the young athletes. It will include strength and cardiovascular conditioning facilities, an indoor rowing tank, indoor pool, classroom and administrative space and boat storage for more than 100 rowing shells.
Young Olympic rowing hopefuls currently are training at various facilities scattered across the country.
Bringing them all together in one central location with top-rated facilities should go a long way toward the country’s success in future Olympic games, Merry said.
“We think long-term, in four to eight years, it’s going to impact our Olympic medal performance, which already has been increasing over the last two Olympics,” he said.
Marcus McElhenney, a coxswain on the 2008 eight-man rowing team that won a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics, said word has spread among the international rowing community that Oklahoma City is a hotbed for the sport.
“It’s already benefiting the U.S. Olympic team,” McElhenney said. “We spent two weeks training out here last year and we came home with three Olympic medals. You do the math.
“And that’s only going to increase. If we allow people to train here full-time, consistently with other top athletes, we’ll just keep dumping athletes into the World Championships and the Olympics and keep bringing home hardware.”
The interest in rowing in Oklahoma City exploded in recent years after the transformation of a stretch of sandy, sometimes-dry river south of the city’s downtown district that was called the North Canadian River.
A running joke was that it was the only river that had to be mowed twice a year.
But voters approved a bond package in the 1990s that allowed for the construction of a system of locks and dams that enabled the river – renamed the Oklahoma River – to host regattas.
The University of Oklahoma and University of Central Oklahoma both are planning to build separate boathouses along the river, and a master development plan calls for a finish line tower, permanent lighting and grandstands along the river.