Pittsburgh stopped at nothing — even using blow torches as dryers — to prepare Blue Slide Park for the Mac Miller vigil

The blue slide wasn’t always blue. Here’s the history of the iconic park.

The original rendering for Blue Slide Park, dated 1959.

The original rendering for Blue Slide Park, dated 1959.

Courtesy of City of Pittsburgh
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Mac Miller grew up in Blue Slide Park.

He named his first album after it.

And on Tuesday, thousands of fans gathered there to pay tribute to the rapper and producer who died last week at age 26.

The city gave the namesake blue slide a fresh coat of paint that same morning. The park is legally named Frick Park Playground but known colloquially as Blue Slide Park.

Normally, the city uses a special epoxy to repaint the slide but wasn’t able to get it in time for Tuesday’s vigil, said James Hill, executive assistant to Mayor Bill Peduto. So two city employees — parks foremen — spray painted the slide instead, using 17 cans of blue spray paint in total.

“And to make sure it dried in time, because a light rain had passed over, they borrowed blow torches from a nearby DPW [Department of Public Works] shed” and dried the paint by hand, Hill added.

The slide will be repainted in the coming weeks with the special epoxy that is both blue in color and which acts like a sealant and lubricant.

“We use an AQUAPON epoxy because that gives the child or adult — because adults use the slide, too — the ability to slide down it,” said Mike Gable, director of Pittsburgh’s Department of Public Works. A piece of cardboard also helps.

The slide is usually repainted each winter, depending on how worn it is, DPW tweeted. Gable said it may not be that frequent but that the slide “gets worn down very quickly, so you can’t go five to 10 years between [paintings].”

The city first approved plans for Blue Slide Park in April 1959, Guy Costa, chief operations officer for the City of Pittsburgh, said. Hill said the park likely opened the following spring.

A series of concrete slides were installed on hillside playgrounds across Pittsburgh between 1952 and 1958, a fad at that time, Gable said.

Gable said there are three that remain here: the one at Blue Slide Park/Frick Park Playground, one at East Hills Park, and one at Wightman Park, though the latter could be gone by next year after Wightman undergoes a planned renovation.

The blue slide wasn’t always blue either.

“We found photographs. It hasn’t always been blue, though it’s been blue most of its life,” Hill explained. “People remember it being blue for the last 40 or so years. But there was a time it was red in the ’60s. Color schemes were picked arbitrarily here. At the time, whoever was parks director probably said ‘Let’s paint it red.'”

Gable said the blue coloring applied since then is (and was) meant to make the slide look like water.

The park itself is part of the much-larger Frick Park and located at Frick’s western boundary in Squirrel Hill South.

“My first experience with Blue Slide Park was in 1968 when [my family] moved to Squirrel Hill,” Costa said. “The blue slide has always been an attraction with the playground equipment and the location. It’s always been a successful and well-used facility in the city parks system. I think the color was an attraction and the terrain helped, too.”

A petition is now circulating that would rename the park after Miller, essentially returning the nod he gave with his debut album. The album was the first independently distributed debut album to hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in this century, Billboard reported.

Mayor Peduto has said he supports the idea of naming Blue Slide Park after Miller but that it could take a while. Peduto also said the community should be the one to decide, the Post-Gazette reported.

At Tuesday’s vigil, attendees passed around a petition calling for the name change. It’s not clear exactly how many signatures the petition has currently, but a change.org petition calling on the Pittsburgh Penguins to change their goal song to Mac Miller’s “Party on Fifth Ave.” had more than 26,600 signatures as of noon today.