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Volume 21 No. 1
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Rowing, rowing, gone: USA Canoe/Kayak moving its headquarters to Oklahoma City

USA Canoe/Kayak this week plans to announce it will relocate its headquarters to Oklahoma City from Charlotte before the end of the year.

The move follows Oklahoma City’s $60 million investment to build a whitewater rafting and kayak race course along the Oklahoma River, a $35 million recreation and training center, and the Oklahoma River Stadium, with grandstands, floating stage, permanent lighting and additional race infrastructure. It comes eight years after USA Canoe/Kayak relocated from Lake Placid, N.Y., to Charlotte, home of the U.S. National Whitewater Center.

The move follows Oklahoma City’s investment in a training center and more.
In addition to being based at the new Oklahoma River training center, USA Canoe/Kayak will benefit from the support of the organization that manages the facility, the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation. The foundation’s staff of 40 people will take over the financial management of USA Canoe/Kayak and provide administrative support in areas such as marketing.

For a small national governing body like USA Canoe/Kayak, which has a staff of fewer than 10 employees, that’s a major incentive to relocate.

“This move increases our capabilities both on the water and off from the way we market and promote the sport to the way we create a new generation of powers [athletes] in the sport,” said Joe Jacobi, USA Canoe/Kayak’s chief executive officer.

Jacobi said USA Canoe/Kayak won’t lay off any staff in the relocation and added that the organization will keep an office in Charlotte where its director of operations, Gerald Babao, and whitewater national team coach will be based.

The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce estimates that the whitewater facility has an economic impact of more than $29 million annually. USA Canoe/Kayak’s potential relocation to Oklahoma City was factored into that study, which was conducted in 2009.

“This is not like a major company relocating from an employment perspective, but as we try and establish a brand for Oklahoma City, water sports is a big part of where the city is going,” said Mike Knopp, the executive director of the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation. “Naturally, having the national paddle sports organization in Oklahoma City is a testament to where we’re going as a city in supporting these water sports.”