$570,000 — that’s the reported amount that was spent on the cancelled Heat Music Festival this year. Of that amount, about $330,000 was paid to headliners such as Childish Gambino, Madeon, Ciara and other artists that UC Riverside students never got a chance to see perform.
Worrisome weather forecasts were what led to the cancellation of the March 1 festival, despite the tagline at the bottom of each Heat ticket which promised a concert — “rain or shine.”
“We didn’t cancel the concert because of rain,” explained Highlander Union Building (HUB) director Todd Wingate in an interview with the Highlander. “We cancelled it because there was potential lightning. That was the danger piece.”
In the days leading up to the concert, the HUB met regularly with the university’s emergency manager to determine whether or not the forecast would affect the schedule of the festival. As March 1 neared, officials saw no significant signs that would have derailed the event. By 1 p.m. on the day of the festival, the HUB received the green light to go ahead with the festivities.
But as the concert got closer and the clouds in the sky grew darker, the HUB’s production team received a last-minute message from the university emergency manager and fire marshall, informing them of a potential lightning storm heading Riverside’s way. As the storm neared, its size increased and gathered potential “electrical activity.” When coupled with the rain, equipment and attendees at the concert, the conditions created a potential safety hazard, according to Environmental Health and Safety.
By 4:15 p.m. security officials recommended that Heat be cancelled. And within minutes, the estimated 12,000 concert goers received notifications via text, email and social media posts informing them that the concert would not go on as planned.
“No one is more disappointed than my team that we were not able to deliver what we believe would have been the best Heat ever,” Wingate said.
According to him, the HUB programming staff worked since mid-summer to bring the festival to life. The HUB board even decided to increase the normal budget for the concert by 20 percent — adding an extra $100,000 to the normal Heat projected budget of $500,000. But with the cancellation of the festival, none of those plans came to fruition and the result was a nearly-$600,000 concert that failed to launch.
A handful of angry students made their voices heard after the event’s cancellation. Some complained about the long journeys they had to embark in order to arrive at Riverside, while others demanded their money back for the guest tickets they paid for.
According to the HUB, most ticket buyers have already been reimbursed. Holders were sent emails informing them when the refunds were processed as credit in their accounts. As of presstime, only about 19 tickets have yet to be refunded. Only those who purchased their tickets through the HUB have been reimbursed directly, however. Additionally, with the money that was redistributed, the HUB went on to lose $70,000 from ticket sale revenue.
Despite some of the losses, the HUB reported that it was about $30,000 under budget. Currently, the department is working with some of the vendors of the event — including food trucks and security and safety teams — to see if they can further lower costs.
When asked if the HUB could have done anything differently to prevent the cancellation, Wingate explained that the safety concerns were too great to go through with the event, so the cancellation was inevitable. Rescheduling or postponing the festival would have also been impossible considering the varying schedules of the performing artists.
“I know students were disappointed, but … we are just as disappointed,” he concluded. “And, you know, if we could have figured out a way to bring it back, or do some kind of rescheduling or something, we would have been all over it. There just wasn’t any way to do it.”