Block Party in jeopardy as university denies AMS permit

The future of the annual Block Party music festival is at risk after the university refused to grant the AMS a permit to use Thunderbird Stadium for the event, according to the student society.

AMS President Aaron Bailey said that the stadium is the only campus venue with the capacity to host Block Party. The year-end event was formerly held on MacInnes Field where construction of the new Aquatic Centre is now taking place.

“If there are further delays on the confirmation of a venue, then it becomes challenging to book the bands that we want and secure production suppliers,” AMS Events Manager Anna Hilliar said in an email.

The AMS will be launching a “Save Block Party” campaign next week.

I’m somebody who believes this campus was built for and by students and ... we should take priority in the university’s decision making

— Aaron Bailey, AMS president

“We’ve been cordoned to smaller and smaller spaces over the last few years,” Bailey said. “I don’t think it’s fair for a population of 51,000 students that we don’t have a space to celebrate our community all together.”

The university proposed that Block Party be held in the Tef3 office building parking lot, the same location as the AMS’ Welcome Back BBQ and last year’s Block Party were held, Bailey said. But he noted that the lot’s capacity was too low and that Tef3 tenants were strongly opposed to hosting future concerts.

Block Party has previously sold out with a capacity of 7,000. With a capacity around 4,000, the events held in Tef3 led to tickets being resold for 300 per cent markups online, Bailey added.

Plans to host Block Party on David Sidoo Field in Thunderbird Stadium had been progressing for months and included a proposed memorandum of understanding between UBC and the AMS to use the venue, Bailey said. At the end of the summer, concerns were suddenly voiced by UBC Properties Trust, which manages campus real estate, over the marketability of future commercial housing developments near the stadium if Block Party was held there.

“I was notified that an executive meeting had been called without my knowledge. They had discussed the project and put an end to it without consulting me whatsoever,” said Bailey.

UBC Public Affairs was unable to immediately arrange comment from any university officials on Tuesday. 

Bailey said that VP of Student Engagement Louise Cowin had suggested Block Party should be held in the space outside the AMS Student Nest because the square is located in the “student neighborhood” of campus.

“I’m somebody who believes this campus was built for and by students and ... we should take priority in the university’s decision making,” Bailey said.

With files from Arno Rosenfeld