The Slide the City phenomenon is gearing up to soak cities across the nation, and Pittsburgh is along for the ride. Imagine a Slip 'n' Slide that's 1,000 feet long, and set up to support philanthropy. Once logistics are finalized — possibly in March — Pittsburghers can start planning for the party of the summer. (Slide the City is also coming to Philadelphia.)
With live music, food, drinks, water toys, inflatables and the best way to stay cool since the Water Steps, Slide the City’s mission is twofold: Produce a high-quality event and work with local charities to raise profiles and awareness — a portion of the proceeds from every event is donated to a great cause.
Getting Pittsburgh Wet
Once logistics are confirmed, the Salt Lake City-based Slide the City will have an open call for possible charity partners and vendors.
“We hope our participants will spend time on the website of our partner charities, join mailing lists, attend other events hosted by the charity, and become an advocate for these causes,” explains Slide the City Event Director Ryan Johnson.
According to Johnson, Slide the City is diligently working on two locations in Steel City. The City of Pittsburgh is helping them explore the possibility of a slide on Centre Avenue next to the CONSOL Energy Center in the Hill District. They’re also working with the Allegheny County Parks Department on a location in South Park.
“Both entities have been great to work with!” insists Johnson.
The goal is to determine which days the former Civic Arena parking lot is available — the CONSOL Energy Center uses it for events.
“They are expecting five-to-six thousand people during the weekend,” says Tim McNulty, communications manager for Mayor Bill Peduto.
From a Drop to a Deluge
So, where did this slippery idea come from? John Malfatto had been hosting summer parties in Salt Lake City for years using his own homemade slide. People loved it. He started dreaming of something in between a local water park, steep run and homemade slip 'n' slide, and Slide the City was born. Inaugural events were held last year in Salt Lake City and Boise, Idaho. From these modest beginnings, the event has grown to at least 100 potential dates in North America for 2015, with about 10 international markets actively working towards hosting events.
Johnson envisions Slide the City as an annual event, returning to as many cities as possible. The turnouts have been amazing, he says — both the Salt Lake City and Boise events sold out with only two weeks of promotion. They’ve been collecting waitlists for each city this year, and several already have over 10,000 people.
“There is a huge buzz around the event,” says Johnson. “It seems to be universal — we’re hearing from soccer moms, millennials, grandparents and everyone in between.”
Standing in line for your turn may not be as bad as you think. According to Johnson, waits have been as short as five minutes to as long as 45 minutes depending on the number of participants and time of day. From all accounts, there’s enough activity and entertainment to keep people busy while waiting.
People can purchase VIP tickets, which come with an inner tube and exclusive sliding times. VIPs can ride as many times as their legs can carry them back up the hill. Triple Rider tickets are for people who want to ride three times; a tube is provided for this ticket as well. Single Rider tickets will also be available. Tubes will be available for purchase, or people can bring their own.
People on the waitlist will be notified first when registration opens. Johnson expects the Pittsburgh event to sell out.
“We have thousands of people on our waitlist, and it is getting bigger every day,” he says.
Early Bird pricing starts at $15 for a single slide; $30 for a triple; and $50 for VIP, compared to $20 for regular registration and $25 to register the day of the event.
Naturally, with the amount of water that’s required to fuel such a long slide, Slide the City comes with some controversy. In cities with a water shortage — like Detroit, which didn’t have access to water last summer — an event like this can seem wasteful. The city of Los Angeles rejected plans for a Slide the City event because of the drought.
Responding to criticism, Slide the City addresses water conservation efforts on its website. They are currently working with California city officials to design responsible water usage and recycling plans, and “take water shortages seriously.”
As the site explains, “the slide is designed to recirculate water throughout the day which minimizes water use. Approximately 12,000 to 16,000 gallons of water are typically circulated in a day. At the end of the event, the water used in the slide will be treated and then recycled back into the community… In previous events, Slide the City was able to recycle all but about 1,500 gallons of water back into the community.”
The comparison statistics are interesting. Audubon International estimates that an average American golf course uses about 312,000 gallons of water per day. The Environmental Protection Agency says that the average American residence uses over 100,000 gallons of water (both indoors and outdoors) in a year.
“Designing the right water plan is our No. 1 priority,” explains Johnson. “If we can’t design a responsible water usage plan, then we will forego the events. We are working with the City of Pittsburgh Public Utility officials to design the best plan for responsible water usage.”