Halifax plan to host Slide the City at Citadel Hill didn't hold water

CBC News has learned organizers scrambled in the final few days to find a suitable alternative site in the city, but it was too late to find a new place to host the 305-metre long vinyl track.

Organizers considered Burnside Drive, Dunbrack Street and others before opting to cancel

No one in Halifax got to have this much fun on a giant water slide. The event was cancelled before anyone could break out their inflatable Orcas. (Promotional photo from ​a Slide the City event)

Waterslides are like real estate: location, location, location.

It's a lesson organizers of the Slide the City event in Halifax learned the hard way last year. The water slide party was postponed and then cancelled after construction interfered with the slide's proposed location on Citadel Hill.

CBC News has learned organizers scrambled in the final few days to find a suitable alternative site in the city, but it was too late to find a new place to host the 305-metre long vinyl track.

Between November 2014 and July 2015, representatives from Slide the City exchanged emails with city planners and staff. CBC News has obtained copies those emails. Most of the names are redacted; their messages are not.

Negotiations didn't start well.

Staff noticed that Slide the City's website proclaimed Halifax as one of its 2015 event locations. That was news to municipal staff.

"Why has this event been promoted online in Halifax?" wrote Billy Comer, Halifax's civic event co-ordinator, to the organizers on Nov. 18, 2014. 

"We really need to talk ASAP."

A representative from Slide the City offered an explanation: "In our view, the dot on Halifax doesn't represent a promise of an event but rather a potential for an event."

Roundabout construction hampers plans

From there, things went downhill fast — and not in a fun slip-and-slide way. 

Event organizers had hoped to slide down the roadway that climbs Citadel Hill.

"We would love to bring our summer event to Halifax and bring our 1,000-feet long slide for a weekend that could bring more than 10,000 people in the streets," said an email from a Slide the City organizer to Comer.

Organizers moved ahead with the plan and sold tickets to "close to 2,000" participants.

But then organizers realized their planned venue had a problem.

The spot where their slide would end had become the largest road construction project undertaken by the city that year — the Cogswell Roundabout. 

A pair of images capture the same location on Cogswell Street in Halifax. Construction was under way in the summer of 2015 on a new roundabout. (Google Street View)

"We got a big surprise when we received a picture of the state of the Citadel Hill," organizers told city officials in an email dated July 17, 2015.

"We are beyond bummed to announce this, but we have to postpone Slide the City Halifax."

Search begins for an alternative site

In the days that followed, Slide the City organizers and city officials searched for a new location. Documents reveal some surprising options were considered:

  • Atlantic Street (Woodside)
  • Main Street (Dartmouth)
  • Mount Edward Road (Woodlawn)
  • Dunbrack Street (Clayton Park)
  • Burnside Drive (Burnside)

A map of some of the locations that were considered.

As of July 28, 2015, the list was narrowed to only two options: Dunbrack Street and Burnside Drive. Event organizers planned to shut down a section of roadway for a full day.

"Road closures would only be effective from 4 a.m in the morning to 10 p.m. in the evening," organizers wrote to Halifax officials.

The Dunbrack Street option posed a safety risk, the city said.

The detour routes are "all pretty bad," wrote Christopher Davis, a traffic supervisor for the city. "I'm sure HRFE [Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency] would agree, as their station is at Knightsridge."

So Burnside Drive was the last option.

"It is steep, long and wide!" organizers wrote. "We wish to announce to our attendees (over 2000 as of today) that the event WILL happen."

Organizers had still not submitted any application to run the event on Burnside Drive. A city official replied: "Do not announce anything yet at all."

One day later, Slide the City organizers officially abandoned plans to hold an event in Halifax.

"Unfortunately, the biggest shareholders in the Halifax Slide The City project decided to pull the plug on the event for the 2015 edition. They weren't convinced that Burnside was the way to go, due to its distance from downtown area and due to the lack of parking options," they wrote.

"We feel like Slide The City belongs on a downtown street right by a park and not in an industrial area."

Chris Davis, Halifax traffic supervisor, shared the disappointment. "We're bummed too. Keep in touch through Billy re:2016," he wrote.

Slide the City offered refunds to more than 2,000 registrants.

For 2016, the organization currently lists 43 cities planning to host Slide the City events. Halifax is not one of them.

About the Author

Brett Ruskin


Brett Ruskin is a reporter and videojournalist covering everything from local breaking news to national issues. He's based in Halifax.


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