Edge of Eden a Costly Success

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By Joel Escobedo, Katie Murar, and Roberto Olmedo

With about 3,500 tickets sold, Edge of Eden was the first event in recent history to bring a crowd of that size together at one time at UC Santa Cruz. The one-day concert has been advertised for several months, but organizing and funding the concert has been in the works since last year.

“A lot of students expressed interest in having a concert like this, and we were finally able to work with administration and make it happen,” said Chief of Staff for the Internal Vice Chair Kayla Oh. “Because we’re already divided into 10 colleges we seem to keep to our own for the most part, and most of our friend groups are from our own colleges, so this concert gives us an opportunity to break out and meet other students.”

Funding came from the Dean of Students (DOS) Alma Sifuentes, who allocates part of her budget for student life activities, like the concert. Sifuentes referred to her involvement with the concert as a “close sponsorship,” because of her collaboration with the Student Union Assembly (SUA) since the conception of the concert.

“The SUA initially approached me in August for a partnership,” Sifuentes said. “It made sense that my office would sponsor the event, because part of the role of the Dean of Students is to help out with all events on campus, but they also wanted to know if I could also help them financially — if that came down to it. Of course, I said yes.”

After constructing a draft budget with the SUA, she paid for expenditures from her office’s budget. The total cost of the event was close to $200,000, Sifuentes said. While organizers of the event said funding for the concert would be covered with ticket sales and fees charged to food and merchandise vendors, revenue fell short.

“We don’t have the information available to say exactly how close we came to breaking even, but we had always anticipated that we would probably be short somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000,” Sifuentes said.

However, Sifuentes expected the difference in expenditures and called the loss necessary to hold the large-scale concert. While planning the concert, the SUA and DOS were aware that their budgets would cover the difference. Funding from the SUA comes from the budgets of the Chair, the Internal Vice Chair and the Commissioner of Diversity. The DOS’s budget is comprised of Measure 7, donations and the Student Services Fee — which students pay for through tuition.

Sifuentes said the high budget for the concert is due to the cost of the infrastructure — setting up the stage, lights and wiring on the East Field. She hopes that to lower costs, the concert will eventually be held at the Quarry Amphitheatre.

The amphitheatre would serve as a cheaper venue because most of the infrastructure will already be built, and staff won’t need to be hired for construction. However, funding for this construction is not yet in place and past events at the amphitheatre have only been able to hold around 2,000 people.

“My deal was that I will pay a third portion of the event, which is not a loan, it is a sponsorship,” Sifuentes said. “A large portion will be paid by [revenue], the rest will be paid by the SUA budget.”

Since total revenue from Edge of Eden is still being calculated, Sifuentes is unsure how much the DOS will spend. SUA needed to sell 5,000 tickets to break even and reach event capacity.
However, only 3,500 tickets were sold as of Saturday at 6 p.m. Last week, student life director David Pickard said he expected the event to lose money.

“It was obviously tough for us to have to charge students and we were worried that students wouldn’t pay for it, but it was the only way to finance the event,” Pickard said. “We are probably going to end up losing money on the event, which is very common for a first year [concert]. The loss isn’t huge, and it was expected from day one.”

Jose Reyes-Olivas, the Co-Curricular Programs coordinator for College Ten, was hired as production manager for the event to help with overall planning — from working on the budget to conducting student surveys about preferred artists. Reyes-Olivas was promoted to full-time through salary savings from the DOS, separate from the event’s funding. Sifuentes said he also assisted in other DOS projects like the Quarry Amphitheatre.

Safety and Transportation
UCSC police Chief Nader Oweis and about 15 officers managed the event from inside and outside the venue on the East Field. With a crowd of possibly over 3,500 people, safety and traffic were both concerns.

By law, the event had to remain within capacity or the fire department could shut down Edge of Eden completely, Chief Oweis said. Therefore, officers were placed at the entrance gate to make sure everyone was ticketed, and those who tried to enter without a ticket faced the risk of being arrested.

Chief Oweis said the event went smoothly — for the most part. Seven individuals were arrested, some who are not affiliated with UCSC. Arrests were primarily drug-related, individuals intoxicated to a point that “they could not take care of themselves,” Chief Oweis said.

“I don’t think [the arrests] would affect future concerts,” Oweis said. “We hoped not to have made arrests, but we know typically at concerts such as this that a few arrests are made.”

There was also a small issue regarding less than a dozen people attempting to sneak in to the concert throughout the day, Chief Oweis said. Some of the people who attempted to sneak in were stopped by the security company present.

Additionally, officers kept an eye on parking lots and modes of transportation, such as Metro buses that ran through the campus loop counterclockwise, said Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) assistant director Susan Willats. High volumes of traffic were expected that Saturday as several different events were occurring across campus, including the SAFE Violence Prevention Conference and a memorial service for a student at the Farm — some events expected up to 300 guests.

To reduce the amount of traffic on Saturday, TAPS imposed a $10 fee to park in the East Remote Lot and other parking lots on the east side of campus, including Cowell, Stevenson, Merrill and Hahn Student Services. TAPS refers to this fee as “transportation management,” Willats said. In an email from Chief Oweis, campus residents were asked to park on the west side of campus.
Additionally, Hagar Drive was closed between the East Remote Lot and Quarry Plaza.

Willats said the number of parking spaces available on any given day is barely sufficient enough, but if parking were free, spaces would be nonexistent. The $10 fee for parking covered the salaries of the 28 TAPS staff working the event and the costs for Santa Cruz Metro to provide fare-free service to ticket holders.

“You can imagine, expecting 5,000 people, when maybe there’s going to be 1,000 parking places available, is daunting,” Willats said. “If we make a mistake in calculating how we’re going to manage it, there’s going to be a bunch of people parking in the neighborhoods and there’s going to be a bunch of neighbors really angry about it”

Minimal Damage
Edge of Eden was not the only new large-scale event on campus this year. On April 4 the Holi Festival was held at the East Field, with 1,400 people in attendance and minimal damages done to the field. However, Edge of Eden raised greater concerns due to the size of the event and the current 65 percent water reduction to the field due to the mandatory water rations.

OPERS facility center supervisor Todd Hammonds said despite the original concerns, after the concert the field was not damaged beyond some dead grass.

“We are just going to water the field and we are going to let nature do its work,” Hammonds said.

Intramural sports were pushed back a week due to the setup of the stage and other preparations for the concert. The East Field House, pool and Wellness Center were closed and resumed the following day. Hammonds is open to using the field for the concert next year.

“It was well planned and executed,” Hammonds said. “If it comes to us again next year, we will cross that bridge. I thought it was a success.”

Setting a Precedent
Large-scale concerts are not new to the UC system, with most UCs holding some form of a concert every year. Chief of Staff for the Internal Vice Chair and concert organizers Kayla Oh said Edge of Eden is comparable to UCLA’s Bruin Bash. Although the Bruin Bash happens at the beginning of the year, it still has the same intention as Edge of Eden — to foster student unity.

“The other UCs have bigger budgets and more years of experience doing this, while this is just our first year,” Oh said. “We’re working with a smaller budget than they are, so it won’t be on the same scale as their concert in the first year, but give it time and in a couple years — we can get to their level.”

UC San Diego’s Sun God Festival, started in 1983, is paid for by a student activity fee and has a list of 12 sponsors on its website. UC Santa Barbara’s Extravaganza, started in 1979, does not charge for tickets since it’s funded by a student fee and has four sponsors.

For Sifuentes, Edge of Eden was both innovative and historical to plan, and she is eager to throw her support for another iteration next year.

“This event really was student-initiated,” Sifuentes said. “While our sponsorship helps, it was really led by the students. They had the vision, they knew what they wanted and we moved forward from there.”