The centre opened on 26 March 2010, after taking two years to build the £13.3m venue, which is the first on-demand white water centre in the UK. The facility was designed by the French company, HydroStadium, who designed similar courses for the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Olympics
The centre offers on-demand white water rafting and canoeing and a flat-water pond for warm-up and initial training. Off-site activities include gorge walking and surfing.
Prior to the 1999 completion of the Cardiff Bay Barrage, Cardiff Bay and the tidewater sections of the Rivers Ely and Taff were a saltwater estuary which filled and emptied twice daily with tides as high as 12 metres (39 ft). At low tide, moored boats were stranded on mud flats. The barrage converted the estuary into a permanent freshwater lake, maintained at the level of the former high tide. The shoreline of this new lake is the location of the CIWW.
Plans for the CIWW were revealed and approved in 2006 and the centre was originally due to open in 2008, with an original estimated cost of £8.4m and funding support from the Welsh Assembly Government, Sportlot, the Welsh Canoe Association and the Heritage Lottery fund.
In November 2008, a 180-tonne crane was constructed on the site in order to start work on a temporary dam that held back the water while four large pumps were installed. The crane was then floated on a pontoon in the River Ely to create a retained water pool separating the course from the river.
An estimated 50,000 people are expected to use it each year.
The CIWW centre was developed by Cardiff Council for full international and Olympic competition use. The first event of the International Canoe Federation’s 2012 World Cup, held on 8 June through 10 June, was used by several nations to finalize their selection of athletes for the 2012 London Olympics. The 23-gate course for the final race on 10 June had seven upstream gates, six downstream gates in eddies, and an unusual set of three flush gates forming a zig-zag chicane. Downstream gates 13, 14, and 15 had all six of their poles in a straight line, evenly spaced, with the racers required to start from the left and pass each pole on alternating sides.