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Reno Bets on Kayaking Dollars

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Reno Bets on Kayaking Dollars

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Reno Bets on Kayaking Dollars

Reno Bets on Kayaking Dollars

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Reno, Nev., is using the sport of kayaking to draw in tourists, and make the city less dependant on the gaming industry. Thousands of recreational boaters are arriving in Reno for an annual whitewater kayaking competition. City leaders say the decision to spend money on the whitewater park is paying off. Anthea Raymond reports.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

NPR's Anthea Raymond reports.

ANTHEA RAYMOND: Gillian Gardette(ph) and her kids are visiting Reno's new Whitewater Park for the first time.

(SOUNDBITE OF RIVER WATER RUSHING)

GILLIAN GARDETTE: I couldn't believe how pretty it is. And then they saw that they were kayaking, so we decided to come watch them.

RAYMOND: Charlie Albright, a kayaker, was the first to push for a whitewater park.

CHARLIE ALBRIGHT: It took us eight years from when we started to talk about this thing to when it finally got built.

RAYMOND: In the late 1990s, Albright and others began presenting their idea to the Reno City Council and other local groups. Finally, the head of the Nevada Commission on Tourism put up the money for a feasibility study. The Commission was launching a campaign to wean the northern Nevada economy off gaming.

ALBRIGHT: And change it to where we had a different kind of economic base here.

RAYMOND: Again, kayaker Charlie Albright.

ALBRIGHT: For outdoor sports, like the skiing is real popular and the mountain biking. And we've got it all, and kayaking was part of it. And it surprised everybody how well this went over.

RAYMOND: Jim Litchfield, who oversaw the construction, says the part is attracting people of all ages.

JIM LITCHFIELD, Host:

It's extremely successful, and our success is hinged upon the ability to host any of the world caliber competitions that we've hosted. But it's really the ten-year-old on the inner tube all by himself coming down here and having fun in the summertime with this family. That's our design target.

RAYMOND: Tourists staying at the downtown casinos also visit the park, which is what many hoped for. Small business and residents are also moving near the river. Pete Gillon heads Reno's Redevelopment Agency.

PETE GILLON: The Whitewater Park assists in our repositioning Reno and helping people all over the country understand that this is no longer a one-industry town.

RAYMOND: Now, other cities visit Reno, wondering if a whitewater park will pay off for them, too. Jim Litchfield says, maybe.

LITCHFIELD: We just had it all; great climate, urban core, portable room base for people to come in and visit. We have a very entertainment-focused economy.

RAYMOND: For NPR News, I'm Anthea Raymond.

MONTAGNE: From NPR News, this is MORNING EDITION.

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