Workers are now renovating a long-vacant building on the shore of the Black River at 535 W. Main St. to make it a launching pad for whitewater rafting trips.
Whitewater Challengers plans to use the building to host nine-mile guided raft trips back to its Dexter headquarters near the Black River Bay Campground, 16129 Foster Park Road. The company, which has three other locations statewide, plans to lease the front of the 4,000-square-foot building to a retail store that likely will sell outdoor sporting equipment.
Currently, Whitewater Challengers leases waterfront property on Newell Street to launch rafts for trips, but the new site will now provide the business with its own space to do so, said co-manager Julie J. Vickery, who started the Dexter location with her husband, Thomas A., in 1994.
She added that the business, which has drawn increasingly more tourists in the past five years, also needed additional storage space for rafts and equipment that the large waterfront building will provide.
When we saw the waterfront property for sale, we bought it right away, she said of the spring 2011 purchase. Right now we use a barn here for our wetsuits and rafts, so we needed the space for storage.
Mrs. Vickery said the location, which will have two restrooms, also will provide better service for large groups who embark down the rapids during the season, which runs from May to mid-October. And by owning the property, the couple will be able to pursue a long-term business plan on their own.
We wanted to ensure that we had a put-in spot for the life of the company, she said.
The couple hasnt made plans to lease the retail space yet, she said, which is a large area that could serve a variety of uses. The couple hopes to open the site next spring.
Originally, the building was expected to be retrofitted in a matter of four weeks, said Andrew A. Denny, project manager for Integrity Builders, Richmond, which is completing the renovations. But the project, which was started in early June, will need a lot more work than anticipated, as the floors and roof were completely rotted owing to a leak.
The new goal is to complete the work by mid-September, Mr. Denny said. Completely gutted, the renovated building will include a new roof, flooring, walls and windows.
With 30 seasonal employees and 35 16-foot-long rafts, about 90 people can make a day tour that includes three trips down the river, Mrs. Vickery said. Buses take rafters from Dexter and drop them off in Watertown to start the tour, which finishes at a public fishing site on the Black River about a mile from the Dexter location.
Guided rafting trips range from $62 to $72 a person. Tours are available for people ages 14 and up on the challenging course, which includes a series of 14 whitewater rapids.
Calling this one of the best rafting spots in the northeastern U.S., Mrs. Vickery said the business draws tourists from across the state and Pennsylvania. She hopes the new site will help the company expand.
This is real whitewater rafting here, and you cant do this just anywhere, she said.
For more information about Whitewater Challengers, visit http://www.whitewaterchallengers.com/black/black-whitewater.asp.