Breck debates replacing its popular water slide
BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge public works officials are working with water slide manufacturers in hopes of having a new slide in place at the Breckenridge Recreation Center late this summer.
The carbon steel support structures on the fiberglass Miracle slide have slowly rusted away since they were installed in 1991, Breckenridge Town Manager Tim Gagen said.
If recreation center officials were allowed to keep the slide open another year, it might have presented safety issues, he said.
Such slides usually last 10 to 15 years, according to the manufacturer. Newer slides, however, are coated to delay rusting and are purported to last 15 to 20 years.
Pool workers discovered the damage in an annual inspection last year, but Miracle Slide manufacturers said it was still good for another two to three years. The town council then included the cost of a new slide in the capital improvement projects list.
“This year, they found that the corrosion was accelerated,” Gagen said. “That was frustrating to the council. It caught us by surprise. The company will tell you it’s hard to predict, but we thought we had a pretty good analysis.”
Town officials immediately shut down the slide until further analyses could be done.
Miracle slides in other towns have rusted faster than the one in Breckenridge, Gagen noted, most likely because pool employees weren’t as fastidious about maintaining them as the crews in Breckenridge.
In Lafayette, crews installed a Miracle slide in 1990 and replaced the entire structure two years ago because of rust and corrosion. The new galvanized steel slide still looks new, but some stainless steel bolts are already beginning to pit.
Officials in east Boulder replaced their slide in 1997 after five years, claiming that manufacturers incorrectly installed the slide and that they used the wrong rust-prevention coating.
In Louisville, where officials erected a slide the same year Breckenridge did, employees regularly filled pits and painted the slide; they now plan to replace the slide with a concrete or aluminum structure.
Outdoor slides in Longmont and Evans have held up better than their indoor counterparts, although they, too, experienced some rust and corrosion after almost 20 years of use.
Officials at the Silverthorne Recreation Center, which opened in 1994, made sure all the steel components of its slide were coated to protect against corrosion. They report fewer problems than facilities with untreated slides.
Breckenridge officials tested the air in the pool area, too, to determine if chemicals were contributing to the erosion of the metal. The town installed an environmental control system in May 2000 to control chloramines, a corrosive agent in chlorine environments. Since then, aquatics supervisors have reported a noticeable reduction of rust on all metal items in the pool area.
Rusting bolts and stairs aren’t the only elements compromising users’ safety on Breckenridge’s slide. Like most of the Miracle slides installed throughout the state, Breckenridge’s water slide was custom-made and installed in the wall. That installation exacerbated problems, Gagen said, because moisture has worked its way into the wall fairly regularly in the past several years.
Architects from Barker, Rinker and Seacat designed the in-wall configuration over the objections of the slide manufacturer.
Repairing the slide could cost almost $80,000 – not including the $10,000 required for an inspection and the cost of additional parts that might be needed. Demolishing the old slide and installing a new one is expected to cost between $100,000 and $150,000, Gagen said. The difference is that one bid includes a one-year warranty; the other includes a 10-year warranty. The town wants to figure out how much that warranty might be worth.
The money will come from savings the town saw after completing a project on Village Road. Also, town officials hope to salvage as much of the old slide as possible, including the slide itself, which is in near-perfect condition.
“All the stuff in the wall is questionable, but the basic fiberglass slide is fine,” Gagen said. “The question is, can you use it again without anchoring it into the wall?”
He anticipates it will take a couple of months to design before a new slide is installed.
In the meantime, rec center employees are tabulating comments they receive from customers. The slide is open 11 to 12 hours a day, depending on the season, and used by two out of three people who use the pool area. In 2002, rec center officials estimate, 42,000 customers used the water slide.
Employees fielded at least six complaints from May 28 to June 2, ranging from kids’ disappointment to the value of the rec center admission fee if the slide isn’t available. Others said the timing was bad.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or email@example.com.
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