Slide the City, the giant waterslide that made a splash in Fort Worth last summer, will return this year despite a debut that will be remembered as much for its long, hot delays and equipment failures than it will be for the world record set later in the day.
This year’s “block party” is slated for July 23 and 24 at a new location, the Clearfork bridge between Hulen Street and Bryant Irvin Road, according to event director Chris Conran. The slide will be smaller this time around, too, about 1,000 feet rather than the 1,777-feet that was set up at last year’s Pantherfest.
The slide will be open both days from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., according to the city.
Last year, the slide was positioned on the Main Street bridge, just north of downtown, and more than 4,000 people had bought tickets to ride in the morning session. But many of them got stuck waiting in the heat for hours as operators tried to fix problems with generators, hoses and their fittings. As temperatures rose, 28 people were treated for heat-related issues.
Eventually, the morning session was canceled and riders were promised refunds. The afternoon session went off as planned, and 1,456 people slalomed down the bridge in and set a Guinness World record.
One of the first riders waiting in the morning was Mayor Betsy Price, who later called the situation “maddening.” Another was Councilman Sal Espino, whose teenage daughter fainted from the heat as the day wore on.
“My critique would be is they did not have a Plan B,” Espino told the Star-Telegram at the time. “It was a neat concept. There were just issues with the execution.”
Conran said his team is ready to make up for last year.
“We just wanna come back to Fort Worth and show everyone how great Slide the City is,” he said. “Fort Worth was one of our first events and we had equipment malfunctions. And the tough part with that equipment is that you can’t just go to Home Depot and pick up (replacements). So we had to refund that morning wave.”
Cynthia Alexander, Fort Worth’s outdoor events manager, said the new location (across Hulen from Trader Joe’s) is a better fit for the event, mostly because there is a median that separates the traffic. The city expects 5,000 participants each day.
The slide will be placed on the eastbound lane, she said. The westbound lane will be divided for traffic to move in both directions, she said.
“We’ve got a really good plan in place,” Alexander said, adding that Slide the City is “very amenable to our plan.”
In addition, Slide the City will be bringing its own equipment, as opposed to last year when it relied on a subcontractor. The company will also work with the water department to ensure there are no mechanical problems before the event opens.
“We know what to look for,” Alexander said. “We’re better prepared, to be honest with you. Dynamically, it’s going to be better.”
Matt Oliver, spokesman for the Trinity River Vision Authority, said the organization was not planning on hosting Slide the City in 2016 because Pantherfest, a celebration of Fort Worth’s birthday on June 6, was a one-time event.
“It was a neat deal, but the idea of what it takes to put a 2,000-foot slide down Main Street ... we kind of figured this wouldn’t be a recurring thing,” Oliver said. “There were definitely some issues with the morning slide last year.”
Emerson Hamilton, event director for Slide the City in 2015, told the Star-Telegram then: “There were significant issues with not having the equipment that was promised.” Workers began assembling the slide after North Main Street closed at 3 a.m. the day of the event, he said, and a subcontractor had supplied the hoses, fittings and generators. “Unfortunately, the equipment that was brought out wasn’t in functioning condition,” Hamilton said. “We, as Slide the City, that ultimately falls on us.”
Conrad said Slide the City, a Salt Lake City-based company, has also made changes in the way it structures its events since the mishaps in Fort Worth.
There are now two-hour “wave times,” so not everyone shows up at once. They also don’t sell as many unlimited slider passes. A single-ride ticket ranges from $10-$20; a triple slider is $40; and the “ultimate slider” is $50, providing a three-hour window to slide.
Information on the Fort Worth event doesn’t appear on the company’s website yet, but photos from the 2015 slide are featured prominently.
“Right now it seems the city is glad we’re coming back,” Conrad said Friday. “And I haven’t had any issues at any of the events I’ve had since.”
Slide the City is also scheduled to return to Dallas this year on June 25. Sliding starts at 9 a.m on Sylvan Avenue. Tickets go on sale Wednesday at slidethecity.com/location/dallas/.
“Last year we did over 80 slides, including Hong Kong and Malaysia. Overall it was a massive success, but there were a few events where some unexpected things happened. And Fort Worth was one of them,” said Amy Gessel, public relations director for Slide the City. She attended last year’s event and is eager to make up for the disappointing debacle. “And this time, we will make sure the mayor gets the chance to slide.”
This report contains information from the Star-Telegram archives.