Officials anticipate boathouse opening


When the Devon Boathouse is christened during the Head of the Oklahoma Regatta next month, it is expected to be the most advanced training facility in the world for the sports of rowing and canoe/kayak, according to coaches and sports scientists.

The christening will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 7.

While the Devon Boathouse architectural design might look like a building from the future, it’s the training tools inside that have athletes eager to see the facility open.

“The Devon Boathouse will be loaded with features that will attract rowers from around the world,” said Mike Knopp, rowing coach and executive director of the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation.

“It will set the standard as a premier place to train for competitive water sports.”

Three of the most prominent components being installed in the Devon Boathouse are a dynamic rowing tank, a hypoxic room and an indoor propulsion tank.

Jeremy Ivey, assistant coach of the OKC National High Performance Center, said the dynamic rowing tank is the next-best thing to being on the water.

“It almost perfectly recreates the conditions of rowing, allowing athletes to train in a controlled environment. Rowers will be able to work on their techniques indoors when the weather prevents the outdoor experience,” Ivey said.

Long enough to hold an eight-member crew, the tank is designed for athletes to sit in seats with long pools of water on either side. The seats move back and forth like the real boats while oars are paddling water.

Ivey said the tank is also useful in giving athletes an opportunity to try the sport on dry land.

“We want to recruit athletes from other sports and turn them into rowers,” he said. “This tool allows them to work with coaches and learn the technique before getting into a boat.”

Another major feature is the hypoxic chamber, an airtight room that will simulate training and living in high altitudes. The room will support up to four athletes at a time training on rowing machines, kayak machines and treadmills at simulated altitudes up to 12,000 feet.

Ivey said training intermittently in high altitudes improves athletic conditioning by increasing the red blood cell count. Red blood cells carry oxygen through the circulatory system.

Coaches will set hypoxic schedules for their athletes according to where their next competition takes place, a process Ivey said will add a new dynamic to the art of coaching.

A third major component in the boathouse is an indoor propulsion pool. The pool circulates water in one direction so that athletes can swim against a current while staying in one place, an aquatic version of the treadmill.

Ivey said the pool is particularly useful for rowers as a rehabilitation tool. Because of the repetitive motions of rowing, athletes are prone to muscle overuse injuries. Swimming can help rowers get back into shape after such injuries.

Coach Knopp said the Devon Boathouse is a key component to his vision of transforming the Oklahoma River into a hub for athletes chasing their Olympic dreams and a place that inspires people, young and old, to take to the water in one of the many activities the river offers.

“It takes more than a river to create the ultimate water sport training grounds,” he said. “Because of its features, this boathouse will make the Oklahoma River one of the finest destinations for competitive rowing and flatwater canoeing and kayaking in the world.”

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