Los Angeles is hosting the 2028 Summer Olympics. But 700 miles away, the southern Oregon town of Gold Hill has entered into a long-shot bid to host the kayak, canoeing and rafting events.
The pitch runs like this: A purpose-built whitewater park could cost Los Angeles more than $40 million dollars and be expensive to run because of LA's limited water supply.
Former Olympic rower and Oregon resident Steve Kiesling thinks that for just a few million dollars, Gold Hill could turn its existing whitewater park into an international event center.
“I mean our course when built will essentially last forever and run for free," Kiesling said. "I mean it’s a naturally flowing river. So what we’re doing is modifying bed rock.”
The state of Oregon has paid for a design rendering of the proposed changes to the Gold Hill park.
Gold Hill Mayor Pete Newport has talked to the LA Olympics sustainability committee to explain that cities such as Ashland and Grants Pass could provide hotel space for competitors, and that Medford has a large airport to bring them in from California.
It’s still a long shot.
Gold Hill just got three years of its financials sorted with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office and updated a biological assessment. It needs federal permission to build in the Rogue River, a threatened salmon-bearing stream.
The Gold Hill site is also considered sacred by some Native American tribes.
But Newport, the mayor, thinks the new water park could improve hazards in the river that he said were created when a dam was removed there in 2008.
Olympic venues usually use man-made water parks for canoeing, whitewater and rafting events. But the Atlanta games in 1996 used a natural river.