Mayor Madeline Rogero cut the ribbon this week on a 19-foot bright yellow embankment slide at the Civic Auditorium and Coliseum. The slide serves as the pilot project for the new “Knoxville Slides” initiative. The Mayor was joined by members of City Council and representatives from the national nonprofit organization KaBOOM!, Knoxville Area Transit and SMG.
“Knoxville Slides” aims to offer unexpected play opportunities in the city, taking advantage of East Tennessee’s terrain by building slides into hills with existing stairs. Depending on the initial project’s success, there may be more slides on the way.
“This was a fun way to turn Knoxville’s beautiful hills – which are often an obstacle for building recreation spaces – into an asset that further promotes our increasing identity as an outdoor recreation city,” said Mayor Rogero. “We’re grateful to KaBOOM! for challenging us to come up with this creative play asset, and for funding our idea!”
In addition to the slide that was constructed next to the parking garage’s existing staircase, this particular project also includes a “crawl-hoop tunnel” for kids to exercise their arms and a xylophone-like permanent outdoor instrument that pays homage to the many concerts hosted at the Civic Auditorium and Coliseum site.
The $25,000 project was fully funded through an innovative “Play Everywhere Challenge” grant administered by KaBOOM!, which strives to give all kids the childhood they deserve, filled with balanced and active play. The Challenge promotes innovative play for children in unexpected, but everyday, spaces such as sidewalks, vacant lots, parking garages, and beyond. By using existing City infrastructure not previously designated as a play space, kids are encouraged to be creative and “play along the way.”
In addition to being located at the Civic Auditorium and Coliseum, where thousands of visitors attend hockey games, ice shows, concerts, dance recitals and graduation ceremonies, the slide is also adjacent to Knoxville’s largest stop for its free trolley service, Cal Johnson Recreation Center, Knoxville Station and several apartment complexes. The new slide is also located across the street from the Safety Building, which serves as headquarters to the Knoxville Police Department.
“Play is the essence of childhood,” said James Siegal, CEO of KaBOOM!. “But it is often difficult to squeeze into the day because parents are juggling too many demands or don’t have safe places for their kids to go. We are excited to support and share the amazing PLAYces dreamed up by our Challenge winners. We are confident that our winners will inspire city leaders around the country to transform their side-walks, vacant lots, bus stops, and more with their own innovative solutions that give all kids the childhood they deserve filled with play.”
A team of local organizations in Knoxville worked with the City to come up with several ideas that were submitted for the Play Everywhere Challenge, and the KaBOOM! grant committee selected the “Knoxville Slides” initiative as one of 50 grant recipients out of more than 1,000 applications nationwide.
Once the grant was awarded, a team of City officials from the Parks and Recreation, Engineering, Police and Public Service departments collaborated in planning the project with representatives from KAT and organizations including the Knox County Health Department, SMG, Legacy Parks Foundation, Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization, Visit Knoxville, and the Childhood Obesity Coalition.
KPD officers who are trained in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) guidelines advised on safety provisions for the slide, such as additional lighting and adequate spacing for the landing pad. Public Service crews installed the slide and other amenities.
In conjunction with the opening of the slide, the City of Knoxville Parks and Recreation Department released an online map of potential future sites for “Knoxville Slides,” inviting sponsors to help continue the initiative.
To view information on the Knoxville Slides initiative, visit www.knoxvilletn.gov/recreation.