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Unprecedented crowds on Ezra Avenue this St. Patrick's Day lead to unprecedented costs

Last Updated Apr 13, 2018 at 5:14 pm EDT

570 NEWS file photo.

Waterloo officials are footing a very expensive bill for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day street party on Ezra Avenue.

A grand total of nearly $714,000 was spent managing the unsanctioned event — a cost bore by the city, police, fire, paramedic services, and the universities.

And officials say the price of the party was driven up by busloads of unwelcome visitors.

Of the 22,000 rowdy students that crammed Waterloo’s university district this St. Patrick’s Day, Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky says students from 30 different schools were in attendance. Further, 86 per cent of charges handed out by Special Constables from Wilfrid Laurier were to non-Laurier students.

“We didn’t ask for this,” says Jaworsky. “We need to really make sure that our citizens shouldn’t be picking up the tab for literally 30 other institutions coming to visit our town. That’s just not fair.”

Those community partners have now formed a task force to address the growing problem of growing crowds, and eventually end the drink-fest.

Jaworsky says there’s an opportunity to work with student unions from across the province to explore ways to have out-of-town students party in their own communities, while Police Chief Bryan Larkin says they could look at turning the street-front festivities into a sanctioned event for the entire community. That could include charging admission, or taking a licensed approach similar to Oktoberfest.

But Larkin acknowledges they’re running out of options.

“We’ve experimented with a licensed tent previously … but they would traverse between the licensed tent and the unlicensed street,” says Larkin. “The other pendulum is shut it down, close the street down, don’t let anybody on the street. I don’t think that that’s reality.”