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May 17, 2013

Organizers hope canoe championships put Garrett County on map

Team trials, open house this weekend at Adventure Sports Center International

MCHENRY — Deep Creek 2014: International Canoe Federation Canoe Slalom World Championships is the largest inbound sporting event scheduled in the United States in 2014, according to Todd Copley, executive director of Deep Creek 2014.

“The world championships are going to be a massive gathering of nations,” said Copley. “This is our only shot in a long time in being able to reach out and put Garrett County on the map for our friends in France, our friends in Slovakia, all of those people that will be coming over here to compete.”

The event will take place at Adventure Sports Center International on Sept. 16-21, 2014.

This weekend, the USA Canoe/Kayak Whitewater Slalom team trials are being held. The event includes an open house today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the chance to meet Olympic athletes and paddlers during the same hours Sunday.

The 2014 event is expected to bring more than 1,500 athletes and team support staff from more than 35 countries. Deep Creek 2014 is also projected to bring in 40,000 spectators plus an additional 150,000 at related events and have a $20 million impact for the county, according to Copley.

It has been 25 years since the U.S. has hosted the world championships. In 1989, they were held in Garrett County on the Savage River.

“Within the county itself, there is almost a palpable excitement about bringing it back here,” said Copley.

Following the 1989 world championships, a group was formed to provide a way to recirculate whitewater and discovered that Wisp Resort was a good potential site. The land was then donated, according to Jerry Geisler, general manager of Wisp Resort who played a large role in the 1989 world championship.

“This was a good potential site because we had something unique, which was the ability to move water around the mountain for our snow-making system,” said Geisler. “Back in ’89, we had hoped to bring the world championship back and here it is. It has been a great economic boost for Garrett County, it has been a wonderful thing for Wisp to be involved in. We hope to see more world championships.”

Since opening in 2007, ASCI has hosted nine major whitewater championships and five adventure style competitions.

“We truly believe that we are the epicenter for adventure sports, not only for the East Coast but for the United States,” said Copley.  

The fact that ASCI has programmed activity on the water makes the area more attractive for people who are interested in doing business in the county, said Joe Jacobi, an Olympic gold medalist and CEO of USA Canoe/Kayak.

“We are all working together toward some very important social outcomes here,” said Jacobi. “Facilities like this change the game in cultivating how people feel and how people develop their opinions on water and their relationships with water.”

Jacobi was instrumental in putting together the bid for the world championships and for bringing them back to Deep Creek, according to Copley. USACK is the national governing body for the sport.

The long-term naming rights sponsorship from the event is expected to generate $2.5 million over 10 years, which will be put back into the facility, Copley said.  

Garrett County was awarded $1 million from the state’s capital budget for upgrades to Adventure Sports Center International. The proceeds will be used as a grant to the county commissioners for the planning, design, construction, repair, renovation, reconstruction and capital equipping of ASCl. The project will also include upgrading telecommunications and building new and upgrading existing infrastructure and facilities.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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