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U.S. Whitewater Center buys an app and expands into 3 new areas

Whitewater Center
The U.S. National Whitewater Center is adding new sites in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The locations will be very different from the location in Charlotte, with the new locations serving more as a base camps than as a stand-alone recreation spaces.

When people think of the U.S. National Whitewater Center, its man-made rapids near the Catawaba River likely comes to mind. Bike trails and ziplining have also become popular attractions since the Whitewater Center opened in 2006.

Now, it’s expanding beyond Charlotte. It recently bought three new properties and also purchased an app.

“These new locations simply give us more tools to be able to open up access,” Whitewater’s Brand Director Jesse Hyde said. “So I, for one, am incredibly excited that there are so many more opportunities for people now through the Whitewater brand.”

The new sites include Whitewater Santee in the low country of South Carolina. There’s also Whitewater Grayson in southern Virginia and Whitewater Pisgah, a 30-minute drive from Asheville.

There’s not much information available on the Virginia location. But the North and South Carolina locations will provide lodging for people wanting to explore the nearby recreational opportunities. Think of them as base camps.

“These three new locations are meant just to be a jumping-off point into a much broader region,” Hyde said.

At Santee, it’s a bed and breakfast starting at $750 for a three-day weekend. At Pisgah, it’s a lodge for up to 12 people at $450 a day.

The expansion into these new areas will help Whitewater advance its non-profit mission, Hyde said.

“Our goal has always been to promote and encourage people to utilize natural resources, specifically here at our facility in Charlotte. But, you know, that misses all of the what we feel are world-class, you know, opportunities in the southeast and beyond for people to recreate.”

Additionally, the Whitewater Center also purchased the Gravel Map app. The program provides information on unpaved and gravel trails throughout most of the world. This will help Whitewater bring people closer to nature in the digital sphere, Hyde said.

“Our goal of facilitation is not just creating physical experiences,” Hyde said. “We also want to create and manage and maintain resources in the digital space to inspire people to get outside and recreate, but also to help them do so.”

The locations will also offer activities like guided tours, bike rentals, climbing instruction and other activities for people staying at their facilities.

The Whitewater Center has come a long way since defaulting on loans in 2008 and restructuring its debt. Local governments contributed $12 million during Whitewater’s early days to help keep the organization afloat through the Great Recession.

It declined to provide details on the cost of its recent expansions or for the purchase of the Gravel Map app. But according to property records, the Whitewater Center and its subsidiaries paid roughly $6.3 million for the three expansion sites, which total 450 acres added to its portfolio.

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Lars Lonnroth is a journalism and political science student at Mercer University in Georgia. He's interning at WFAE.