So you want to turn this paddle-sports lifestyle into a profession, eh? Well then look no further than Okalahoma City. Wait, where? OKC, really?
It may sound strange, but Oklahoma City is fast becoming the epicenter for collegiate and Olympic training for rowers in the United States. The Oklahoma Regatta Festival just wrapped over the weekend and PL checks in to see just what makes this a go-to destination for aspiring paddle-sports athletes. We found the just completed $10 Million Devon Boathouse and new finish line tower to be just the beginning of a series of boathouses planned to dot the landscape along the Oklahoma River.
At the christening of the Devon boathouse U.S. Olympic Committee President, Scott Blackmun, expressed his gratitude toward the city of Oklahoma City. Robert Henry, President of Oklahoma City University, 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 being touted as the premier river sport facility not only in Oklahoma or the nation, but the world. The opening of the Devon Boathouse kicked off with a fundraiser for youth rowing and the Oklahoma National High Performance Center athlete development. The opening attracted more than 1,200 people to the state-of-the-art boathouse which includes a dynamic propulsion rowing tank, high altitude training chamber, an endless pool and weights rooms.
“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.”
The 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 also be a training ground for USRowing and US Canoe/Kayak.
The boathouse is being used as Oklahoma City’s national high performance training center for rowing and canoe/kayak and by Oklahoma City University. There are currently 30 resident athletes including current national team members Ryan Monaghan and Deaglan McEachern (M2-), Tom Peszek (M8+), Steve Young, Nareg Guregian and Justin Stangel (M2+), Evan Tsourtsoulas and Mike Nucci (LM2-), Kenny McMahon, Michael Kerrigan, Julian Bowling, Robert Duff and Matthew Muffelman (LM8+).
“We set out to create the most technologically advanced boathouse in the world,” OCU rowing coach Mike Knopp said. 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.”
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.”
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.”