Fall Fest fallout: UB students angry about long lines and limited capacity of Fall Fest
Eric Kishel, a senior biological sciences and psychology major, said he and six of his friends arrived at Alumni Arena at 6 p.m. Saturday for Fall Fest only to see the line stretching all the way from Alumni to the end of the street, around the corner and to the University Police Station.
Kishel said he and his friends then went to a nearby friend’s house to wait until the line had shortened – when he returned an hour later at 7 p.m., the line was gone, but in its place were a group of police officers at the entrance of Alumni, refusing to let anyone else in.
One of Kishel’s friends, Cleo Gallagher, an environmental geosciences major, said she shouldn’t have to pay for something she wasn’t even able to attend.
“I have to pay out of pocket for lab kits, clickers, and other extra costs that are actually for furthering my education because UB would rather put my tuition money toward a concert I wasn't even able to enjoy,” Gallagher said.
Even four days after the Student Association’s annual fall concert, UB students are still talking about the unrelenting rain, painstakingly slow lines and limited space in Alumni Arena.
All undergraduate students who pay the mandatory student activity fee of $104.75 a semester get into the concert for free with a student ID, but once the 6,500-arena capacity had been reached Saturday, students and ticket holders alike were refused entry.
SA President Minahil Khan said despite some students not getting in, SA did the best it could given the circumstances, especially with the switch to the indoor venue from an outdoor one came just days before the show because of the weather.
“We canceled outside ticket sales [after the switch to an indoor venue] as soon as we could – we did our best to accommodate all students,” Khan said. “I am proud and happy of how well everything went. So many people worked together to make this thing work.”
Inside, the festivities went smoothly, with both SA and the UPD commenting on the success of the event.
SA Entertainment Coordinator Marc Rosenblitt said there was nothing more disappointing than having to turn away undergraduates from an event.
“By 7:30 p.m., we had reached the arena’s capacity of 6,500 inside. Our plan had been to allow a certain number of additional students in, based on the number of people who left, if we reached capacity,” Rosenblitt said in an email. “However by this point in the night, only 76 people had left the arena.”
Students began lining up at Alumni Arena despite the persistent rain hours before the doors opened at 5 p.m. and the show’s designated start at 6 p.m. One of the chief complaints about Fall Fest among students was the wait in line.
Only the main entrance of Alumni was used. Only one door, out of the eight available, was used to allow students to enter. Non-UB students, who bought general admissions tickets, were allowed to pass through the doors in a separate line because they did not have to have their UB IDs checked.
“Considering the multiple entrances into Alumni, I would’ve expected more of them being utilized since the event was sold out. I felt that the general public was getting VIP treatment while the loyal UB student population waited in line,” said Michael Marianello, a junior engineering major.
Rosenblitt said that the amount of time it took for everyone to get into the concert was likely mostly due to the sheer number of students attending.
“In that hour [between doors opening at 5 p.m. and the show’s start at 6 p.m.], we were organized enough to process 2,500 students. Over the course of 2.5 hours, we processed a total of 6,500 through the line and metal detectors,” Rosenblitt said. “That works out to about 8-15 seconds per person.”
Rosenblitt said the biggest challenge was the building itself – only eight metal detectors fit in the entrance.
The security was tight at the arena – no bags, umbrellas or “anything that could be used as a weapon,” was allowed in, said Joey West, one of the members of the United States Security Associates contracted by SA to provide security at the concert.
Many students brought umbrellas to stay dry in the rain.
Students had to discard their umbrellas, ponchos and half-empty bottles before entering the arena. Discarded items lined the gated pathways to the doors. SA Event Staff Manager Scott Van Patten said that the piles of umbrellas were simply put into garbage bags and thrown away.
Despite the craziness at the entrance, UPD did not have any further security concerns.
Assistant Chief of Police Chris Bartolomei said the event went very well, all things considered. He said only one student was arrested for disorderly conduct and the majority of the calls were first aid requests – mostly dehydrated and overheated people in the front of the crowd or in line.
“It’s a large crowd of people, many of whom come to the event under the influence of drugs and alcohol, there is always a risk of a serious medical emergency or violent altercations,” Bartolomei said in an email.
Bartolomei said the low crime stats were due to the large amount of planning that goes into the event each year.
Essentially the entire SA Entertainment staff, including the director, assistant, hospitality, talent and event management coordinators had been on-site setting up the event since 8 a.m.
SA Treasurer Joe Pace was one of the runners for the event, in charge of making sure the artists had everything they needed and arrived from the airport and hotel at Alumni Arena without a hitch.
“I drove around basically whoever needed to get somewhere. I drove around some Big Sean people, some Jeremih people – took them to the airport, hotel and campus,” Pace said.
The biggest logistical concern, Pace said, was the amount of people that needed managing.
SA had to coordinate with the artists arriving from the airport, as well as all of the volunteer staff from members of 31 different SA clubs – on top of managing concertgoers and security.
Kenneth Kashif Thomas contributed reporting for this story.
Brian Windschitl is the senior arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org