ULTRA MUSIC FESTIVAL

New Safety and Security Measures

A year ago, it seemed like Ultra music festival had seen its final installment in Miami’s Bayfront Park. A security guard was trampled by attendees, suffered a severe brain hemorrhaging and was left in critical condition Mayor Tomas Regalado issued a petition to make Ultra’s 2014 edition, its last one in Miami. Leaning heavily on Ultra’s “irresponsible” behavior towards providing sufficient security for attendees and staff alike, Mayor Regalado’s petition would have prevented Event Entertainment Group, Inc., the producers of Ultra from obtaining a license to run a subsequent installment of the festival in 2015.

Erica Mack became the poster child for the campaign against Ultra in 2014. Ticketless attendees determined on gaining unauthorized access to the festival, pushed against the fence until a section surrounding the perimeter the organizers established toppled over. A mob used the fence as a ramp and ran over it, pinning security guard Erica Mack against the ground. Miami’s homicide department became involved immediately, reviewing footage and interviewing any witness present during the incident.

In 2013 Ultra festivities were extended from a single weekend to two weekends, totaling six days. A usual wave of consternation followed in the wake of Ultra’s 2013 edition, only last year, the concern was double fold. City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff called to revert the festival back to its usual format and in 2014, Ultra for the festival to revert to back to the usual three-day format.

The following year, security guard Erica Mack ended up in the hospital with a brain hemorrhage, a broken limb, and several months of recovery therapy ahead of her. The incident at Ultra in 2014 even resulted in the filing of a lawsuit with Erica Mack as the plaintiff. UMF organizer, the Event Entertainment Group, the City of Miami, the Bayfront Park Management Trust, Carlson’s Fence and Erica Mack’s employer, Contemporary Services Corporation were all listed as defendants of the $10 million dollar lawsuit. Even after this scandal in 2014, Mayor Tomas Regalado withdrew his resolution to ban the festival a few months after the incident and even the lawsuit lost momentum with time, the parties involved coming to terms with the fact that the unfortunate event involving Erica Mack was “caused by illegal actions of third parties” for which the defendants were not responsible. Thus it is that Ultra festivities are again upon us.

This year, tickets dropped in price from previous years, the highest tier priced at $299.00 USD on Ultra’s website. Single day tickets are not available this year and attendees have only one option, to purchase a three-day pass, amounting to an expense on behalf of the festival-goers of “nearly $50 less than the 2014 event,” as stated by a representative on behalf of the organizers.

Lowering ticket prices may be part of a marketing strategy Ultra set in place to appease ravers enraged by the yearly increment in ticket prices in previous years and hopefully recapture their attendance. Given the incident involving Erica Mack it seems that a higher attendance rate will benefit the festival but cause a greater headache for Miami authorities.

In 2013, Ultra’s economic impact resulted in $223 million dollars to the local economy. Amongst the markets that enjoyed the most benefits were the the hospitality and the entertainment sectors. Although Ultra is a source of tourism for Miami, an overall success from an economic standpoint, the turbulence caused by Ultra, including the injuries suffered by security guard Erica Mack, perpetuate the labels chastising Miami as a party destination, the original sin city. Last year, 28 attendees were arrested on felonies and 48 more on misdemeanor or disorderly conduct charges, but what is of more concern, is that 118 festival-goers were tended to by paramedics at the site of the festival on account of physical injuries and overdose.

To wiggle their way back onto the good side of Miami’s authorities, Ultra announced their hiring of Raymond Martinez, the retired Chief of the Miami Beach Police Department as the organizer’s new Chief of Security. The press release was led by the founder and CEO of Event Entertainment Group, Inc. himself.

In cooperation with their new Chief of Security, having come close to loosing the right to the space at Bayfront Park, Ultra is going to new lengths in order to increase security and diminish the chances of another tragedy occurring this year.

First, Ultra announced a minimum age requirement for 2015, no one under the age 18 would be allowed to purchase tickets or enter the venue. The usual notice against consumption or trafficking of illegal or controlled substances is strongly underscored this year with an impossible-to-miss disclaimer smack at the center of Ultra’s website home, the neon letters, bright against the black background promising to pursue anyone who’s found in possession of or under the influence of illegal substances. Organizers claim that several undercover cops will be on site to watch out for and prevent illegal behavior.

Most surprising was Ultra’s ban of certain accessories that have become staples of the electronic music festival scene. Ultra’s security policies for 2015 also ban backpacks of any kind, facemasks, and totems, all popular amongst music festival enthusiasts.

It will take more than additional secure fencing and police to ensure the security of festival attendees. Police officers, security guards, and surveillance cameras can only do so much during an event like Ultra, an event that has developed a culture of its own. This year might not be completely devoid of mishaps, injuries, or medical emergencies, but with Ultra’s new security policies and the former chief of Miami Beach Police as the festival’s new Chief of Security, the culture of the festival may start to change gradually, until safety and caution are not enforced but voluntarily practiced by attendees.

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