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St. Elizabeths new ice slide is more than a fun ride

Over 700 people crowded the new St. Elizabeths East Gateway Pavilion during the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend for DC's latest winter attraction: a $220,000 ice slide.

Tolliver and her son. Photo by the author.

"They didn't want an ice rink, they wanted to do something different," says Kelsie Wright, whose company KCW Communications, LLC was contracted to oversee the slide, as well as decorate the pavilion with lights to create a winter wonderland east of the river. Government officials hope that the slide, and the $8 million pavilion overall, will set the stage for revitalization of the St. Elizabeths campus, which hasn't seen development in over 60 years.

The exclusivity of the attraction is what drew Cherry Tolliver and her four-year-old son to the slide on January 25, one of the coldest days this winter. A resident of Alexandria, Tolliver knew of no other amenity of this type near her home.

"My son loves it. I rode with him the first time, then he started going by himself," she said.

Braving the cold along with Tolliver was Capitol Hill resident Clara Ewell and her 3-year-old daughter. "It's fun because it's not enough snow to go sledding," says Ewell, who was led up the stairs and in line nearly a dozen times by her pint-sized toddler, who craved the rush of the slope in her mom's arms.

The inflatable tube that whips down the frozen ice and into a bumper wall is equipped to seat one adult and one small child. Toddlers who are able to independently hold the handles can ride alone after parents sign a safety release form.

A few feet away, both families took advantage of the warmth and accommodations inside the pavilion's entertainment facility. A children's playroom housed games, arts and crafts; hot beverages and snacks could be purchased by the resident pop-up coffee shop, The Orange Cow Café; and a movie screening section was set up adjacent to a guest lounge area.

Unlike any space readily available in Ward 8, the pavilion opened last October as an urban park, welcoming experimental and temporary retail, dining, and educational and community events. Thus far, the 180-acre campus has seen success with events such as its fall festival, farmers' markets, yoga and cooking classes, and food truck vendors for US Coast Guard employees and the surrounding community. Soon, patrons can expect outdoor movies and other events highlighting the site's extensive green space.

With an underground tunnel separating them, amenities like the pop-up café and food truck vendors should cater to the 3,700 US Coast Guard employees who have recently relocated headquarters to St. Elizabeths West. If the federal government can find the funding, the Department of Homeland Security is expected to bring another 10,000 employees from FEMA, the TSA, and others in the near future.

"What we are witnessing this morning," said Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton during October's opening of the pavilion, "is the beginning of the transformation of Martin Luther King Avenue."

The ice slide will be in service every weekend until February 17th. The fee is only $5 for adults, and free for children.

Crossposted on Elevation DC.

Christina Sturdivant is enthusiastically involved in Washington, DC's non-profit sector, creating programs and volunteering for organizations that provide resources to increase the living qualities of marginalized individuals. She enjoys writing about art, food, entertainment and all things progressive in the city. 


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Am I the only one who has no idea where this is? The post seems to expect me to know, since it doesn't provide any information on the location.

by Gray on Feb 4, 2014 10:29 am • linkreport

"If the federal government can find the funding, the Department of Homeland Security is expected to bring another 10,000 employees from FEMA, the TSA, and others in the near future."

Fat chance.

by Ben on Feb 4, 2014 10:50 am • linkreport

@ Gray. I too am puzzled.

St. E's is the place that you can only go if you have a car and are willing to drive around to find it. There seems to be no expectation that people will walk or take the bus or (gasp) ride a bike to get there. Trying the Google maps link on the G8Way website helps not at all.

by fongfong on Feb 4, 2014 10:54 am • linkreport

Is there a way to take the metro there? This sounds fun, but I am not familiar with the area.

by Paul on Feb 4, 2014 10:56 am • linkreport

It's about a 10 minute walk from the Congress Heights Metro. I agree the G8WAY website can be clearer about it. One reason may be that the walking path is not particularly well signed right now, but Catherine Buell, who is heading up the St. E's project, said putting up signs to better direct people on foot is one of their next priorities.

by David Alpert on Feb 4, 2014 11:03 am • linkreport

There's a website? I don't see one linked in the post.

by Gray on Feb 4, 2014 11:06 am • linkreport

I've added a link.

by David Alpert on Feb 4, 2014 11:09 am • linkreport

@Gray- The address 2700 MLK Ave. It is bikeable, but there is a hill right before the old hospital grounds on MLK if you are coming from Historic Anacostia.

by todd on Feb 4, 2014 12:03 pm • linkreport

As DA mentions, it' about 10 minutes from Congress Heights.

Additionally, there are quite a few A-series buses that leave Anacostia station and stop at St. E's.

by thm on Feb 4, 2014 12:47 pm • linkreport

What is an ice slide?
How tall is it?
How fast do you go?
How much does it cost?
What are the hours?

These are all questions that an article about an ice slide should answer.

by Dan on Feb 4, 2014 2:14 pm • linkreport

I've biked up the hill on MLK to St. Elizabeth's just recently -- and I wouldn't do it again. No space on the road, just a narrow badly maintained sidewalk. For all the years we've been talking about the great development potential of both sides of St. E's, nobody's done a *thing* about how to get there, or how to integrate either site into the surrounding neighborhoods.

But the ice slide seems cool, and the hot chocolate sounds warm. Nice creative pop-up, hope there's more.

by Shalom on Feb 4, 2014 7:10 pm • linkreport

Subsidized by tax dollars.

by Steve on Feb 5, 2014 6:12 am • linkreport

It does seem like a cool concept and happy that St. E's redevelopment/community revitalization is pushing ahead but the cost of this particular attraction seems somewhat excessive.

For a cost of 220k, only 700 people used it opening weekend. Even if it lasts till Feb 17 maybe another 2300 riders will, but that still works out to a cost of nearly $75 per person (all but $5 is covered by the DC government for adults, free for kids). Maybe the money could have found a better use in the community...

by Matt on Feb 5, 2014 1:43 pm • linkreport

They hope to attract the 3,700 Coast Guard employees to this Pavilion? Fat chance - it's a 30 minute walk one-way, which is how long the lunch hours are at USCG HQ. Obviously nobody took that fact into consideration, and you'll notice that only two food trucks even bother to show up once a week. This project is DOA - dead on arrival!!

by TioJuan on Oct 30, 2014 9:15 pm • linkreport

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