The recent development of the sport of rafting on artificial venues, both in terms of competition and in terms of leisure, adds two important elements of sustainability.
First, it allows rafting to go out of its initial environment (natural rivers, remote areas, expeditions...) and to open up to a broader public, with a clear possibility of improving its participation basis and providing more visibility to the sport in urban and more populated areas.
Second, it can provide a solid financial sustainment of whitewater venues used for slalom, downriver and river safety. In fact, the construction and maintenance costs of urban artificial whitewater venues is consistently higher than the income produced by such venues if these are only used for competition/training purposes. On the contrary, when partially used for commercial purposes, whitewater artificial venues become sustainable and can directly support competitive activity.
In this respect, in order for whitewater venues to be profitable and usable for commercial purposes, their conception must be studied together with experts coming from the different sectors (slalom, downriver, com- petitive rafting, commercial).
Waterland srl (Italian Canoe Kayak Federation’s and Italian Rafting Federation’s technical partner) developed a project of an artificial whitewater course (350-400 mt. long) with several innovative features. The project provides a single venue in order to accumulate the building and management elements common to both rafting/kayak venues and surf venues.
The costs of the technological part of the electrical-engineering installations, including the electricity grid connection, the hydro-sanitary grid connection, the drainage system and the safety system, are low combi- ning the sports facilities. Thus, also the costs for service structures, changing rooms and sanitations are low due to the cost reduction in the construction and the following management.
In such venue, for example, 12/16 rafts (each carrying 6-8 people) can run simultaneously. This can easily be translated in a hourly attendance of over 100 people; considering that the average price is 35-40 € per person, it appears that such an amount covers the operating and management costs in a satisfactory way to achieve a solid profit margin.
The option presented to the Torino Municipality and Piemonte Region by Waterland srl exploits thehy draulic drop along the crossbar of Michelotti’s dam (in Murazzi area, Torino), aiming at realising a low cost venue. In summary, the project exploits the flow rate of the Po River and the artificial drop of Michelotti’s dam to build, with a reduced work in the riverbed, a whitewater venue, 180 mt. long, combined with 2 sections (upstream and downstream) of flatwater moved by the obstacles-laying or the artificial flow diverters.
The strengths of the mix venues are the low cost of realisation, the low operating costs exploiting the flow rate directly, the logistical and strategic position in the middle of the city. In addition, the technical features of a such venues, with whitewater and flatwater sections, enable beginners and amateurs to use it. The strategic position in the middle of a city is an incredible opportunity to collaborate with schools.
The project, realised by the Italian Rafting Federation and the Italian Kayak Canoe Federation, represents a good practice of collaboration and integration between the 2 different disciplines. Besides, shared whitewater courses between slalom, wildwater and rafting can progressively lead to shared international events, with clear advantages in terms of event costs and in terms of visibility.
The adaption to rafting competitive and commercial purposes can assure the financial sustainability of the venues, allowing them to comply with the strict criteria of the IOC Agenda 2020, ensuring the reinforcement of canoe slalom as an Olympic Discipline and opening up for expansions of the ICF disciplines within the Olympic Program.