Fort Worth

Fort Worth mayor describes slide malfunctions as ‘maddening’

Volunteer Brian Luttman worked on the malfunctioning water slide on the North Main Street bridge Saturday morning.
Volunteer Brian Luttman worked on the malfunctioning water slide on the North Main Street bridge Saturday morning. Fort Worth Star-Telegram

The “Slide the City” event that set a Guinness World Record on Saturday will also be remembered as a day of frustration for the people who could not ride the slide because of a series of malfunctions.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, who was scheduled to be among the first riders down the giant slide, called the situation “maddening” and suggested that changes will need to be made if the slide is to return to Cowtown.

The 1,710-foot water slide stretched across a portion of the North Main Street bridge and was slated to open at 10 a.m. Saturday as part of PantherFest, a Fort Worth-themed festival.

With temperatures steadily climbing, the more than 4,000 people who had bought advance tickets for the morning session became frustrated as they waited for the slide to open.

Because of issues with generators, hoses and their fittings, the morning session was eventually canceled and those with tickets were told they would get refunds. The slide finally opened about 4:30 p.m. for those who had bought tickets for the evening session.

The mayor said she waited about two hours before leaving PantherFest, which was organized by the Trinity River Vision Authority. The slide was the main draw to the festival.

“Overall, it was maddening to have to stand there and wait and wait and wait,” Price said Monday by phone from Frankfurt, Germany, where she was part of a Dallas/Fort Worth Airport trade delegation. “There were thousands of people in line who didn’t get to slide.”

Price said she told festival organizers to get assistance from Fort Worth police and firefighters to help people deal with the hot weather.

Medstar also dispatched its AMBUS, a bus-size ambulance that can handle 15 patients at one time, once officials saw increases in the number of people with heat-related issues. By the end of Saturday, Medstar had treated 28 people, including 18 for heat-related issues and 10 for minor trauma. Six were taken to the hospital.

Medstar spokesman Matt Zavadsky said the number of heat-releated incidences was higher than expected.

“I think given the experience of the event we had, the mayor’s comments were spot on,” Zavadsky said.

Matt Oliver, spokesman for the Trinity River Vision Authority, said the snafus at Saturday’s event will be reviewed and studied. He said it was too early to say if they would have the slide back.

“The slide was the only part of the event that we didn’t have control over and after Saturday morning it does create a serious discussion for us moving forward for future events,” Oliver said.

‘That ultimately falls on us’

Officials with Slide the City, based in Salt Lake City, said it’s the first time they have experienced such a malfunction.

“There were significant issues with not having the equipment that was promised,” said Emerson Hamilton, Slide the City’s event director.

Hamilton said a subcontractor supplied the hoses, fittings and generators.

Workers began assembling the slide after North Main Street closed at 3 a.m. Saturday. Price said she wished it could have been put together earlier and tested to guarantee there were no problems.

“I would have liked to have seen it set up and practiced sooner but I understand it was a third-party malfunction,” Price said.

But Hamilton said workers were ahead of schedule when they discovered problems with the generator between 4 and 5 a.m. Saturday.

“Unfortunately, the equipment that was brought out wasn't in functioning condition,” Hamilton said. “We, as Slide the City, that ultimately falls on us.”

Hamilton said the more than 4,000 ticket holders who weren't able to slide will be credited with refunds to their credit card accounts.

Ticket prices ranged from $15 to $60.

If Slide the City is brought back for another event, Price said, it might make sense to use city water rather than pumping and chlorinating it from the Trinity.

Oliver, however, said the issue appeared to be with getting water to all parts of the slide rather than pumping it from the river.

“I think this issue would have been the exact same if they were pulling water from a fire hydrant,” Oliver said.

Hamilton said that his company has pumped water directly from hydrants in some cities, which is an easier process. But Hamilton said that wasn’t proposed in Fort Worth because of the drought at the time the event was being planned.

‘A big disappointment’

Councilman Sal Espino took his children to the event, and his 14-year-old daughter fainted from the heat.

“My critique would be is they did not have a Plan B if they could not get the water slide running in the hot sun of Texas,” said Espino, who is also on the board of the Trinity River Vision Authority. “It looked like it worked well in the evening.”

Espino wouldn’t oppose a return of Slide the City if more shade structures were in place.

“It was a neat concept,” Espino said. “There were just issues with the execution.”

Oliver said it was too early to say whether Trinity River Vision, which is part of the Tarrant Regional Water District, would consider inviting Slide the City back to Fort Worth.

Water district board member Jim Lane was also at the event Saturday morning with his son, who was hoping to slide. Despite preparations, Lane said, mistakes sometimes happen.

“I thought the overall event was planned well and people enjoyed it,” Lane said. “I think they did all they could do. I would classify it as a big disappointment more than anything else.”

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna

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