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Q and A with Jeff Wise

by Jennifer Garner

August 5,2006

With your background in law and healthcare, what made you decide to change careers and decide to spearhead this project?

It was just such a wonderful project, someone had to quit their day job and do it. The concept of such a unique outdoor recreational center had such possibilities, and was too great a vision to not become a reality. I would have been bothered if it hadn’t been done and I would have regretted if I hadn’t had a hand in it. So I quit my day job!

Developing a white water park is no different from a production and development stand point that forming a bank or a healthcare information company, and I had done both of those. Lawyers are good at development and strategy and figuring out how to build something and make it run successfully. I was good at building things and making them run successfully, this project just happened to also be a product and idea that I personally believe in and think is amazing. The idea of having such a facility in my home town is just amazing and makes me very proud.

Why did you choose Charlotte for the Whitewater Center?

This is our home. I am from Charlotte and this is home to our board and staff. We wanted to create something that would make an active brand for Charlotte and add to its creative and dynamic offerings. This facility makes living in Charlotte even more attractive to a healthy, vibrant, active population. The board and the staff saw Charlotte as the perfect place to make the Center a reality, with the city’s can do attitude and desire to be an attractive, livable city. We want the Center to be an asset and improve the quality of life in Charlotte.

What makes this facility unique in the United States?

There is no other facility like it in the United States, or even the world. There were whitewater courses built for the Olympics in Australia and Athens, but no facilities that combine kayaking, rafting, biking, rock-climbing, and trail running all in one area. At 307 acres, we are three times larger than any other such facility. You don’t have to be an expert whitewater paddler to enjoy the site. You can flat water canoe on the Catawba River, you can walk on over 11 miles of wooded trails, there is an amphitheater for live performances and educational programs, along with a restaurant and day camp pavillon. There all kinds of activities and venues to promote healthy, active lifestyles and encourage family bonding and social engagement. And there are great whitewater runs too!

What opportunities do you plan to offer for leadership and community development?

We are very excited about the community development opportunities and right now are booking more corporate, church and civic groups for reservations than individuals. We offer a challenge course of low and high rope elements, team building exercises, meeting space and catering right on site. We would like to see executives, church youth groups, scout troops and professional organizations take advantage of the facility to build their teams in a healthy, active way and enjoy being part of nature right in their community.

How are you handling the recent issues with the park’s neighbors over access to the road?

Our permanent road is on schedule to open in about a year. In the interim, we are using Hawfield Road for the next year. I understand the neighbors’ concern about the safety and beauty of their neighborhood and I respect their desire to maintain their way of life and homes. I would be mad at me too if I were a neighbor there! We are introducing a change in their daily lives and patterns. I understand that you have to take the good and bad when you build something new in an area and we want to be good neighbors for a long time. So I am going to keep listening to their concerns and try to partner for solutions and find the best way to co-exist as neighbors.

Have you had issues with the environmental concerns over what you are doing to these 307 acres of undeveloped land?

Surprisingly, no. We have not had a lot of issues here. Obviously, we are altering the terrain of the property with parking lots and the whitewater runs, but we are preserving large areas of undisturbed lands too. Part of our mission is to develop environmental stewardship and to raise a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts who will grow up and enjoy and protect that environment. People who play and recreate in the outdoors tend to be people who care and work to preserve nature. If there is a soap box I get up on it is for more people to get up off the couch, turn off the TV and engage your body and mind. If you are out biking or hiking, you are going to feel better, you are going to meet new people and you will see what an active, dynamic city we live in. Go paddle a canoe! Take a hike! Get out there!

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