“Oklahoma City has quickly developed a culture surrounding the Oklahoma River while solidifying an important place within the Olympic Movement. The presentation will detail Oklahoma City’s rise as a US Olympic and Paralympic Training Site with the Boathouse District facilities and programming that helps advance Olympic dreams while inspiring the next generation of Olympic hopefuls. Mike will detail the OKC influences on Team USA for the Rio Olympics while also reviewing the opportunities the that lie ahead for OKC with our world class facilities and community engagement. RIVERSPORT Rapids will also make a significant cultural and economic impact upon OKC, both as an Olympic training destination, but also an authentic venue that will deliver one of a kind experiences to OKC families as well as visitors from across the nation.”
A passion for rowing and paddling and a vision for bringing national and international sports to the Oklahoma River have been the driving force behind Mike Knopp’s leadership in developing the Oklahoma City rowing community, the Chesapeake Boathouse, national and international sporting events, and ultimately, the master plan development of the Oklahoma River.
Originally a practicing attorney, Mike left his legal career in 2003 to establish the Oklahoma City University varsity rowing program and assume the position of executive director of the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation. Bringing corporate, civic and community leaders together, Mike has led multiple Oklahoma River initiatives including:
• The Chesapeake Boathouse, opened January 2006 and offers juniors, masters corporate and collegiate rowing programs, as well as kayaking and dragon boating, special events and camps.
• The OCU Head of the Oklahoma regatta, established in 2004. Now recognized as one of the nation’s top rowing races and an innovator in the sport of rowing with the addition of the nation’s first sanctioned night racing.
• The 2007 USA Rowing World Challenge bringing international competitors to the Oklahoma River.
• Host for the 2008 USA Canoe/Kayak Flatwater Sprint Olympic Trials
• Host for the 2008 American Collegiate Rowing Association National Championship
• Host for the 2011 USRowing Masters National Championships
• Development of the OKC National High Performance Center with USRowing and USA Canoe/Kayak with successful certification of the Oklahoma River as a U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site
• Development of the Oklahoma River master plan which includes construction of three new collegiate boathouses, a grandstand, and a world-class race course
• Successfully leading the bid to bring a major international event to Oklahoma City; OKC was awarded the 2014 Marathon World Championship after presentations at ICF meetings in Budapest, Hungary; The event was successfully staged in September, 2014 on the Oklahoma River with over 25 counties in attendance
• Management of the $10 million Devon Boathouse/ OKC National High Performance Center project and the $6 million Chesapeake Finish Line Tower which functions as the visitor center to the Boathouse District
• Helping successfully formulate and lead the MAPS 3 river initiatives campaign and currently overseeing the development of the projects, including the $45 million whitewater center
Mike has been recognized with the following awards and recognition:
• Oklahoma City University Employee of the Year
• Oklahoma City Business Record Forty Under Forty Award
• Journal Record Achievers Under Forty Award
• Leadership OKC Class XXV
• 2008 Dean A. McGee Awards Recipient (Neil Horton Award)
• 2009 March of Dimes Headliner Special Award
• Harry Parry Award for Foundation Excellence, 2008
• USRowing Jack Kelly Award, 2012
• Silver Beaver Award, Boy Scouts of America
• Oklahoma Creativity Ambassador
Originally from Minnesota, Mike discovered rowing as a high school student in Annapolis, Maryland, watching the crew from the U.S. Naval Academy. He began pursuing his passion as an undergraduate at Oklahoma State University where he met his wife, Tempe, a fellow rower, and helped re-establish OSU’s club rowing program.
Mike went on to earn a juris doctorate from the University of Oklahoma where he founded OU’s club crew. While in law school, Mike had the opportunity to row at Oxford, United Kingdom, further fueling his passion for the sport and it’s potential in the United States.
In the late 1990s, Mike and Tempe established a home in NE Oklahoma City and were instrumental in organizing the Oklahoma Association for Rowing at Lake Overholser in Oklahoma City. A few short years later, Mike took note as the city’s MAPS program began rejuvenating the then-North Canadian River. His vision was clear as he looked toward a future that included community and collegiate rowing programs, construction of a community boathouse, and rowing events – regional, national and international – coming to life on the Oklahoma River.
Mike soon left his successful legal career to dedicate his energies full time to building Oklahoma City’s potential as “America’s next great rowing city.” In 2003, Mike was named head rowing coach at Oklahoma City University and, shortly thereafter, executive director of the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation. Under his guidance, OCU became the first university in the Oklahoma City metro to establish both men’s and women’s varsity rowing, and the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation erected the city’s first community rowing and kayaking facility, the Chesapeake Boathouse, in January, 2006. Mike also helped establish and promote recreational and competitive paddling programs on the Oklahoma River.
In a few short years, Mike has led Oklahoma City to the forefront of the national and international rowing and kayaking communities while also developing significant community interest and participation in the sports.