Sure, you’ve seen crazy, you’ve seen odd, you’ve seen unique in downtown Lawrence before. But city leaders are betting you’ve never seen world-class athletes heave a 16-pound steel ball nearly 70 feet down a public street.
Soon, you’ll be able to check that off your list, too.
City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting unanimously approved a request to temporarily turn a portion of a downtown city street into a shot put arena as part of the Kansas Relays in April.
“This won’t just be something you’ve never seen in downtown before,” said Jim Marchiony, a Kansas University associate athletic director. “You’ll see something you’ve never seen in the U.S. before.”
Plans call for the intersection of Eighth and New Hampshire streets to close for most of the day on April 20 to host an elite-level shot put event that evening. Crews will bring in sand, gravel and a special shot put platform that will be placed in the middle of the street. The 100 block of East Eighth Street also will be closed to house spectators and vendors. The main portion of the event will happen from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Leaders with KU and the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau said some European cities had hosted similar events, but they believe it will be a first in America.
The event, which will be a free-admission affair, should be a sight to see. Milan Donley, director of the Kansas Relays, said the No. 1, 3, 7, 14 and 22nd ranked shot putters in the world are currently scheduled to compete. That group includes the current world champion and the fourth-place finisher in the most recent Summer Olympic Games.
“It probably will be the top shot put event in the U.S. this year,” Donley said.
Relay organizers also won City Commission approval for two other downtown events. They are:
• A long jump competition from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. April 21. The 100 block of West Eighth Street, basically between Massachusetts and Vermont streets, will be closed to accommodate a long jump pit and spectator area.
• A one-mile run from 5:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. on April 21. The course will begin in the 700 block of New Hampshire street, travel south to 11th Street, over to Vermont Street and end near the Lawrence Public Library in the 700 block of Vermont. The race will feature several elite mile-runners, but also will be open to the general public.
All three events will impact traffic in downtown. The shot put event will close the intersection of Eighth and New Hampshire streets from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. The long jump event will close the 100 block of West Eighth Street from 11 a.m. on April 21 to 6 a.m. on April 22. The mile race will close portions of the 700 blocks of Vermont and New Hampshire streets from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., but the race route will be open to traffic except when there are runners going through the area. Parking along the race route, though, will be prohibited from about 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.