A state-of-the-art facility, RIVERSPORT Rapids is one of only four in the world. It was designed by the same team that developed the U.K.’s Lee Valley White Water Centre for the 2012 London Olympics and is similar to North Carolina’s U.S. National Whitewater Center.
Geared for both family fun and elite athlete training, the 11-acre RIVERSPORT Rapids whitewater center was completed as part of MAPS 3, the one-cent sales tax initiative dedicated to metro area projects.
Recirculating channels pumping treated water create class II-IV rapids and offer a range of experiences for whitewater rafting, tubing, kayaking and canoeing. The lower flow channel offers great family rafting and tubing experiences – no previous experience necessary. High-octane Class IV rapids on the Olympic style course will challenge elite athletes from around the world for both training and competition.
Architectural Concept: The architectural concept for the structures at RIVERSPORT Rapids are consistent with the existing Boathouse District aesthetic, while still maintaining a uniqueness related to their purpose and function. Modern forms with an angular vocabulary create an iconic series of structures in this highly visible urban context. The forms and materials hint at the duality of the transparency and reflectivity of the adjacent water and its swift movement. The expression and position of the structures create a distinctive experience that seamlessly facilitates the flow of users to the many functional areas of the site.
Main Building: The architectural forms continue the Boathouse District aesthetic. Inspired by the sleek rowing shells and kayak forms, the sharp nose and smooth body form “connects” to the project purpose. Only 30’ from the river’s edge the form races for the water
The main building serves many functions critical to the success of the venue. In addition to administrative and locker rooms, the structure houses a pro shop, restaurant, and locker rooms. Visitors can shop, eat, survey the site, gather information, and purchase tickets for rafting and other activities in this building. The location of the building maximizes views of the course and surrounding landscape. Consideration has been given to the expansion of the building vertically through the potential addition of a second floor.
Raft Storage: A 205’ long sliver structure, the raft storage building provides a defined edge for the white water site. With only 2,041 SF of enclosed space, the wing roof provides a covered outdoor footprint for orientation and safety instruction.
The raft storage building is an enclosed structure east and adjacent to the main building. It houses rafts, life jackets, oars, helmets, and other items critical to rafting operations. During operation hours, these items are in use on the course, leaving the building open for use as a concession area. Situated under the large overhang of the structure, visitors gather for boater orientation and to learn about the safety procedures for rafting and kayaking.
Kayak Building: The Kayak Building is both a landmark and a symbol. A landmark in that it defines the RIVERSPORT Rapids white water site edge. As a symbol, it’s form is an abstraction of a kayaker in a frozen, twisting moment.
The kayak building is located at the far east portion of the site with the highest elevation. It is used to store kayaks for experienced and repeat visitors, as well as a staging location for professional events. The structure is clad in architectural metal shingles and is a prominent feature when viewed from I-35. To enhance the structure’s visibility at night, the exterior is lit with flood lighting.
Rotary Point: A series of steel beams delicately touch to form and define space. The triangular plan is reinforced three dimensionally with overlapping diagonal bracing and a translucent fabric roof.
An iconic centerpiece in the premier RIVERSPORT Rapids whitewater complex, it functions as an awards stage for Boathouse District regional, national, and international competitions and for special programs for schools, community groups, and musical performances.
Bridges: The bridges that span the course and connect the various site amenities are similar in material and design as the buildings and pavilions. These simple, geometric, ADA compliant forms feature a transparent woven wire guardrail and spectacular views of the dramatic elevation changes in the whitewater course below.
Building Materials: The materials of the buildings are compatible with the existing Boathouse District buildings. Architectural metal, and large expanses of glass shaded by opaque horizontal bands will provide the visual connection to the park while mitigating heat from the sun.
Exterior Skin: The corrugated white aluminum shingle reflects light and shimmers as if it is a liquid skin. The shingle is also used on the visible sloped roof of the main building, the sloped roof of the kayak building, and mechanical enclosure fencing. High performance glass matches the color and opacity of the other Boathouse District buildings.
Flooring: Polished concrete is used throughout the facility except at the main circulation path. This path is inlaid with pavers that match the exterior plaza.
Ceilings: A combination of exposed structure, acoustic tile, and drywall ceilings are used for the various areas.
Walls: High impact, moisture resistant drywall is used for all public areas of the building. Wall tile is utilized in the locker and restrooms.