- Cameron Moix
- Guests got wet, but UpaDowna came up dry.
Slide the City made a big splash in Colorado Springs in the summers of 2015 and 2016, but last year's event has drained enthusiasm from the local nonprofit that helped the out-of-town corporation make a killing.
Why? Because UpaDowna still hasn't been paid for the Aug. 20, 2016, event.
Steve Hitchcock, director of UpaDowna, which advocates for outdoor activities and respect for the environment, says despite his many contacts with Sack Lunch Productions of Salt Lake City, UpaDowna hasn't received a promised donation of $3,600.
"This large organization came into our town and basically used UpaDowna to put on an outstanding event, and then they just disappeared," Hitchcock says.
The Slide the City events, which charged up to $45 for a pass down a 1,000-foot water slide on 21st Street, drew thousands. UpaDowna's help was key. Volunteers helped the company navigate local permitting processes, retrieved a fire hydrant nozzle at the last minute before the 2015 event and provided about 80 volunteers the first year and 60 the second year to work 12 hours a day helping check in customers, move crowds along, aid in parking and collect trash during and after the events.
"We would go through Bear Creek Park and do trash sweeps and do our best to help them pack up and get on the road," Hitchcock says, "and be sure the impact on the community wasn't long-lasting."
In 2015, Sack Lunch gave UpaDowna $4,800 several months after the event, Hitchcock says.
For last year's work, zip.
The Independent previously reported Sack Lunch uses nonprofits to help promote events and then staff them. In 2015, local expenses here included $5,550 for Police Department traffic control, $3,363.50 to El Paso County for using Bear Creek Park pavilions; $3,000 to the county for dog-park maintenance while closed during the slide event, UpaDowna's $4,800 donation, and about $845 to Colorado Springs Utilities for water.
Turnout was estimated at about 4,500. The second year's turnout was similar.
Hitchcock says he's spoken with Sack Lunch and Slide personnel, who've said "the check is in the mail" or "you'll have it soon."
On Friday, Feb. 17, the Indy contacted Sack Lunch, which hosts footraces, a Lantern Fest and other events.
We never heard back.
At 7:58 p.m. Friday, Sack Lunch CEO Richard Surber sent Hitchcock an email, saying, "I know you guys are frustrated and so are we. We had some big shortfalls. You have my word that your organization will be paid. Charities are a priority as we work through our issues."
The most recent financial results available on the company's website: "Revenues for the nine months ended September 30, 2016, increased 46% to $12,287,775 from $8,488,390 for the comparable period in 2015."
The company is selling tickets for 2017 events on its website.
If Sack Lunch returns to the Springs, though, UpaDowna won't be its nonprofit helper.
"We promoted this as a fundraising opportunity for UpaDowna," Hitchcock says, noting the group hosts some 100 free events a year on a mere $100,000 budget. "It's disrespectful to some of our supporters that thought they were helping us, not only by volunteering their time for 12 hours that day but also financially.
"We feel right now like we were taken advantage of," he adds. "We will not be working with them again."
Editor's note: After deadline, the Indy was contacted by Sack Lunch Productions CEO Richard Surber, and learned UpaDowna is not the only local organization still waiting on payment from the Slide the City event.