RENO -- A whitewater kayaking park on the Truckee River took a huge step toward reality when the city and two casinos agreed to lend the project $1.5 million to begin construction.
Until the announcement Wednesday, it was uncertain whether the park would have enough money for work to begin this year.
But Mayor Bob Cashell said the Eldorado and Harrah's hotel-casinos will lend $1 million for the project. The City Council unanimously agreed to put up the remaining $500,000.
With the funding, the city can solicit and award a bid for a contractor to start work by Aug. 1, completing the project this fall.
Kayakers were jubilant.
"The river is going to be exceptionally better looking," said kayaker Charles Albright. "It will be very beneficial to the fish and everything else in the river. It will make Wingfield Park a really nice place to go and river runners will have a nice place to play."
The loans are contingent upon the Washoe County Commission listing the river park as a priority for state funding and guaranteeing the money would be repaid.
Washoe County, in turn, would make the river park a priority for its $10 million share of state money for wildlife and recreation. Last fall, Nevada voters approved a $200 million bond for the outdoors and earmarked $10 million specifically for the Truckee River.
The first $5 million in state bonds are expected to be sold before the end of June.
Backers say the river park will draw hundreds of kayakers to Reno at a time for festivals and other competitions, and provide the city a new attraction to promote besides gambling.
"The river improvements this plan envisions will help transform the river into a more usable recreational attraction for residents and visitors alike," said Bruce Bommarito, executive director of the Nevada Commission on Tourism.
Lt. Gov. and Commission Chairwoman Lorraine Hunt began promoting the idea four years ago. The commission spent $165,000 on the initial feasibility studies.
"Mayor Bob Cashell and the council members have demonstrated a commitment to enhancing outdoor recreation and tourism by initiating a project that will show the world what we mean when we say Reno is 'America's Adventure Place," Hunt said.
The downtown project is the first phase of a possible 24-mile stretch of the river through Reno, Sparks and beyond that could be made safe for kayaking.
For the downtown stretch, project engineer Jim Litchfield said terraces of boulders will replace the wall on the west side of Wingfield Park and more boulders will be used to create pools and eddies in the river.