Honey, I Shrunk the Park


London Calling: The scale model in the warehouse
London Calling: The scale model in the warehouse

Mini whitewater park a precursor to the Olympics

While rivers were raging in the Rockies this summer, a warehouse in Boulder hosted a miniature indoor alternative: a scale model whitewater arena mimicking the 2012 Olympic course in London.

“It’s a pretty common practice,” says three-time World Cup Kayak Slalom Champion Scott Shipley, president of park design firm S2O Design. “It lets us see how the real course will work and then tweak it if needed.”

Housed in a 6,000-square-foot warehouse in east Boulder and built by local contractor Elton Randall, the model was an exact replica of the soon-to-be-built London course, down to the gradient and rapids. While the 300-meter-long London venue will convey 530 cubic feet of water per second, Shipley relied on a fraction of that to give a taste of the torrents to come across the Atlantic.

“We pumped thousands of gallons of water into it to emulate the Olympic course,” he says. “It kind of makes you feel like a little kid again.”

Alas, the model didn’t last as long as spring runoff. After using it to make a few adjustments to the real McCoy, Shipley says that all that design work is now water under the bridge. “We had to tear it down in June,” he says. “After we got the information we needed, the cost of rent was too much to keep it running.”

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