Oklahoma City’s magical metro mecca of high-flying zip lines, speed-race slides and flat-water kayak adventures has a new jewel in its crown: the $45.2 million Riversport Rapids Whitewater Rafting and Kayaking Center, which is opening May 7 in the Boathouse District. The park provides an experience straight out of Colorado and Wyoming to people in Oklahoma, whether they’re new to whitewater or an old hand at kayaking.
“There are only a few of these artificial rapids in the world. This one is the newest and most up-to-date,” says Greg Newby, public relations and social media coordinator for the Boathouse District in Oklahoma City. “It’s unique with its two channels. The competition channel is built to Olympic specifications, and the recreational one is longer but easier. Anyone age 8 and above, physically fit enough to get in and out of the boat and hold a paddle, can enjoy it.”
One highlight of the grand opening includes the opportunity to see Team USA’s Road to Rio Tour in action and to meet Team USA athletes. Also featured are the USRowing Central District Youth Championships, comprised of 1,500 teens competing to qualify for national championships later this year.
Safety is emphasized when it comes to either channel of the rapids, Newby says. Every rafter wears a life vest and helmet, and riders don’t board until after a safety briefing with a certified guide who stays with their party the entire ride, directing the action and steering the boat.
The dream of a world-class whitewater experience in downtown Oklahoma City was 15 years in the making, Newby says. Civic leaders including Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation Executive Director Mike Knopp worked for more than a decade until procuring the financial means via the MAPS 3 penny sales tax. The new addition to the district project is in the black with zero debt.
Also new to the Boathouse District and debuting at SandRidge Sky Trail and Slides during the grand opening are a pair of new high-speed dry-slides that are the tallest in the U.S. Hearty enthusiasts climb about 80 feet up a spiral staircase. At the top, sliders are handed a toboggan-style mat and then soar down at about 22 miles per hour. The racing slides are tandem and “have that kind of big drop feeling, like on a whitewater ride,” Newby says. The racing sliders accelerate at 17 miles per hour. The other existing high-speed spiral slides offer even more speed and adventure.
Also featured is stand-up paddle boarding (SUP). It can be done solo for those age 8 and up, and children age 5 and up can tandem kayak with an adult. If new or nervous, instructors can get participants on the water with a quick lesson.
Located near all the watery wonders is the 700-foot SandRidge Sky Zip, which takes visitors across the Oklahoma River. Just steps away, adventures await on the six-story SandRidge Sky Trail and the 80-foot Rumble Drop free-fall experience off the very top of the Sky Trail. Using PowerFan technology, the Rumble Drop gives that extreme free-fall feeling much like a bungee jump but without the bounce. The adrenaline rush continues when trying out the Extreme Air Jumper — a harness that makes 20-feet high jumps safe. A harness is also used for bungee trampoline fun.
In addition to possibly renting some world-class meeting and event facilities in the compound, groups can venture onto the water to try the “Challenge the Dragon” team-building experience with a dragon boat excursion and participate in dragon boat races.
Small children will enjoy the many allures of the Youth Zone, including Sky Tykes, which is a scaled down version of the SandRidge Sky Trail. Children are harnessed in for a safe exploit a few feet off the ground. Children are not left out of the zip line experience with KidsZip, a miniature zip line where adults are also welcome. And then there is the Extreme Air Jumper, a bungee experience enabling kids of all ages to jump 20 feet into the air. Finally, visitors of all ages are welcome to take off their shoes and empty their pockets for a bouncing good time in CloudBounce, a 48-foot inflatable pillow.
The SandRidge Youth Pavilion provides a place to get a bite to eat or enjoy some indoor simulator games of golf, basketball, soccer, football and baseball. Newly available is the SkyTechSport Ski and Snowboard Simulator. The Pavilion is also the site to check out bikes to use at the recently expanded Momentum Pump Track.
The Chesapeake Finish Line Tower is a good place to start the day and get information and passes, as well as a chance to shop for gear, shirts, gift certificates and more. Care has been taken to make pricing affordable, Newby says. All access passes range from a day pass at $49 per person to a seasonal option of $179. Family pricing of four passes or more gives visitors a $5 per person savings. The passes cover whitewater rafting, flat-water kayaking, zip line rides, the slides and other land adventures. Purchase of Riversport Adventure passes also help fund youth outreach programs as well as athletic development and training at the OKC Boathouse Foundation’s National High Performance Center, a U.S. Olympic & Paralympics Training Site for both rowing and canoeing/kayaking.
The Boathouse District can be found at 800 Riversport Drive with free parking along the Oklahoma River. Free lockers are provided under the Skytrail. To learn more, visit boathousedistrict.org or call 405.552.4040.