Tuesday, October 3, 2017
This week the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation will be celebrating with friends and donors for reaching their fundraising goal to honor longtime Boathouse District visionary Aubrey McClendon. In addition to naming the whitewater facility The Aubrey K. McClendon Whitewater Center, the boathouse foundation launched the Onward & Upward campaign – named after McClendon’s signature phrase. The money raised will support boathouse foundation operations, provide youth scholarships for boating programs, support the annual Oklahoma City National Whitewater Festival and develop a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program at the Boathouse District using the natural resources, systems and energy associated with moving water.
Aubrey was one of the first champions of the Boathouse District. In 2001 when Oklahoma City was transforming the Oklahoma River through the original MAPS plan, he spearheaded the formation of the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation and led the development of the district. The Chesapeake Boathouse, built in 2006, was the first structure in the district, which has since rapidly grown to include a row of iconic boathouses along the river, the world-class Chesapeake Finish Line Tower, the Riversport Adventure Park and the Riversport Rapids, a nonprofit recreational and athletic training whitewater and rafting venue, fully funded by MAPS 3.
Today, the Boathouse District hosts world-class events that draw thousands of people to the area. America’s top athletes train in world-class training facilities, as well as recreational rowers and paddle sport enthusiasts. The OKC Riversport Junior Crew offers competitive and development rowing teams for kids ages 11 and up, which has attracted over $3 million in college scholarships to participants.
Tragically, Aubrey won’t see his fulfilled vision of the Boathouse District. But, his leadership and legacy are evidenced in the continued development of the district. The successful Onward & Upward campaign ensures people of all ages and interests – from tourists and rafting enthusiasts to Olympic athletes – get the opportunity to share in Aubrey’s vision for Oklahoma City.
Cathy O’Connor is the president of The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.