CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The organization that runs the U.S. Olympic canoe and kayak teams is moving its headquarters from Charlotte to Oklahoma City, but the impact on the Queen City may be hard to notice.
USA Canoe/Kayak (USACK) will move to a city that is building a man made whitewater course similar to the U.S. National Whitewater Center, which opened in 2006 just west of Charlotte.
"We truly believe Oklahoma City, a place whose citizens have supported the Oklahoma River and whitewater initiatives, is the place to rekindle our nation's passion for paddlesports," said Joe Jacobi, USACK's CEO, in a statement. During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, he said Oklahoma City's central location will help paddlesports grow, and announced that the non-profit organization was launching its first-ever promotional campaign.
Oklahoma City has become a hub for rowing in the United States after a riverbed that sat dry for decades was redeveloped about a decade ago. A series of boathouses are being built along the Oklahoma River just east of downtown. Voters approved a one cent sales tax in 2009 to pay for a $60 million kayaking and canoeing complex. It's unclear when the $25 million whitewater course will be finished.
Charlotte's whitewater center cost $38 million to build, and was the first man made course of its kind in the United States when it opened. The course hosted the 2008 Olympic trials and will host them again in April 2012. The U.S. National Whitewater Center provides the use of a whitewater course for Olympic training, free of charge. That training will continue, and center director Jeff Wise doesn't anticipate any athletes moving from Charlotte to Oklahoma City, since ground hasn't been broken on the new center. "As far as we're concerned," he said, "this doesn't change anything."
USACK announced its move to Charlotte from Lake Placid, N.Y. in 2002, citing a warmer climate and stronger corporate community, but only a handful of employees worked at the headquarters. In 2003, the Charlotte City Council and the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners voted to give $7,500 apiece to the Charlotte Regional Sports Commission to pay for part of the relocation costs. The Sports Commission says USACK will keep an office open in Charlotte. A full-time coach is among the employees that will remain.
The Associated Press contributed.