How Riversport Adventures came to Oklahoma

Michael Knopp, Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation

One question I get a lot is, “How did it happen?” In other words, how did we bring this world class venue for river sports to Oklahoma? How did we convince the taxpayers that this made sense, and it was worth investing in?

It took passion, conviction, and being ready for opportunities that presented themselves.

For me, it really all began in 1996. That was an Olympic year, and the last year that the summer Olympics were held in the United States of America. My wife and I went to the summer games, and we were inspired. We asked ourselves, “How do we get some of this going in Oklahoma City?”

Well, that led us to a boathouse at Lake Overhulser that wasn’t really being used. Because of our passion, we revived it. We knew we wanted to create a community program and make it accessible to everyone.

At the time, I was practicing law in Oklahoma City, fresh out of law school. But I was convinced that we could make this happen. So I asked myself, “How do I start laying the groundwork to get the city to believe in this opportunity?”

If you’re not familiar with the history of the Oklahoma River, let’s just say it was not much more than a ditch. There had been some failed attempts to revive it, but nothing had come of it. And this was the same general time where we were building the arena, the civic center, the canal, and the ballpark. All of that was very exciting!

Nonetheless, I took my passion and conviction with me and spoke to groups like Rotary Clubs. I would say things like, “We’re going to build a boathouse on the river, and we’re going to have rowing.”

People thought I was crazy! They thought I was a fanatic with an idea! But over time, my passion led to other people becoming passionate as well.

On the day we finally broke ground on that first dam, I knew we had to plant in people’s minds what this opportunity could be for Oklahoma City. It happened to have rained just enough the night before that there was just a little water. There was just enough, that we were able to put some boats in the water to give that visual.

In fact, that visual was on the front page of the paper that very next day. And that very same day, Tom McDaniel from Oklahoma City University gave me a call. Next thing you knew, we had laid the framework for creating a varsity rowing program to OCU, bringing intercollegiate rowing to central Oklahoma.

Of course, that was just the start. But it took a good idea, passion, conviction, and being ready for opportunities that presented themselves.

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