By Keith Capstick
Ryerson students deafened bystanders as Drake called out, “You know I wouldn’t miss this shit!” in front of the largest event in recent memory to take place on campus. But what you don’t know is how much it cost, how long ago it started and how it almost didn’t happen.
The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) spent an estimated $515,000 on this year’s parade and concert. An estimated $215,000 from their annual budget and $300,000 in solicited external sponsorships from local businesses ranging anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 and a $95,000 partnership with George Brown College. Of the $215,000 from its annual budget, $100,000 is provided annually by the university to contribute to the orientation festivities.
The RSU brought Drake, touring partner Future and Twitter-sensation and Toronto city councillor Norm Kelly to light up campus on Friday. They all combined to further solicit the upward swing of city-wide recognition for the university being a hub for youthful urban progression in the downtown core.
RSU vice president student life Harman Singh was in charge of organizing the concert and was largely responsible for the sponsorship money the RSU obtained. Drake was Singh’s plan from the beginning, but was only affordable at the last minute.
“Drake was a last minute deal that was closed … [Initially] Drake wanted too much money, around one million dollars. But closer to the date he became available and he did become a [more affordable] option,” Singh said.
Total ticket sales for the concert reached 6,500 and were capped due to security risks and space limitations.
Ryerson president Sheldon Levy commended the RSU on soliciting the rap star and pointed to the national reach of the concert.
“Given the size of the undertaking, [they] did a fabulous job — from logistics to security. This doesn’t diminish some tense moments or strained nerves, but if you’re going to put on anything of that magnitude, there’s bound to be some stress with it … I mean, I think they really outdid themselves that we trended worldwide with Drake,” Levy said.
According to the RSU’s vice president education, Cormac McGee, this was only possible because the ultimate end-goal of Drake on stage in the middle of Gould Street started back in April, before his team had even taken office.
McGee knew from the start what it would mean for the campus to start the year with a bang like this, but also knew that a large financial plea would not be enough to entice the city-wide icon — he would need a spectacle.
“We workshopped a bunch of ideas … we knew Drake doesn’t care about money, like that’s not going to draw him. We [had] to give him something unique that will be cool,” McGee said.
Over the past few years Ryerson has been on a steady incline in terms of national post-secondary recognition, led the country in admissions, broke ground on new infrastructure like the Student Learning Centre (SLC) and became a hotbed for urban activity.
McGee believes that it’s the RSU government’s obligation to continue to pursue a connection with the Toronto community and be a part of the “hype” that Toronto has cultivated as sensations like Drake trend worldwide.
“If you compare Toronto universities to sports teams, Ryerson is like the Raptors. U of T is the Leafs, they’re outdated, making millions of dollars but no one sees them as cool. York’s sort of like the Argos, they do some good stuff but no one really cares,” McGee said. “Ryerson is like the Raptors, we’re urban, we’re connecting with young people, and people want to come see us.”
But despite the perceived success of the event, it didn’t go off without a few complications.
Though the RSU was aware the night before the concert of Drake’s plans to make an appearance, due to security concerns they weren’t certain he’d be performing until he pulled up.
With the organizer’s resources being “stretched so thin,” McGee said, some of the day’s earlier events were affected, including the parade beginning without the Ryerson Engineering Students’ Society’s float.
“It’s those little details that we definitely missed because at the end of the day we’re just five 20- to 23-year-olds. Like I will own every mistake we made, but it was just a lot in the details,” McGee said.
Throughout the night students were jumping fences to get into the event, being kicked out due to behavioural concerns and a student had their nose broken.
The RSU executive hopes this event will be the first of many, and that it will take some of the pressure off.
“It’s obviously going to make the year easier for us, it’s something we can always point to,” McGee said.
“We just hosted the largest event ever on Ryerson’s campus.”