Park, party and be patient.
City officials are alerting fans who may come downtown to celebrate a Kansas University victory Saturday in the Final Four that downtown access will be different than it was following Sunday’s victory in the Elite Eight.
Police Chief Tarik Khatib said plans are for Massachusetts Street to be shut down to traffic from Sixth to 13th streets following a KU victory. Most side streets that cross Massachusetts Street also won’t be open to traffic. Last weekend, Massachusetts Street wasn’t shut down to traffic, although travel was extremely difficult because of the large crowds.
“Frankly, we just need the space the streets provide,” Khatib told city commissioners at a recent briefing. “There’s no way we can keep people on the sidewalks.
“But all of this does mean that if you park your car down there, you are probably staying down there for the duration. We won’t be escorting anybody out.”
The street closure plans for Saturday night also are scheduled to be in place on Monday, if KU wins the National Championship.
Khatib said Sunday’s crowds following the Elite Eight victory were a bit larger than police had expected, and they’re using the experience from 2008 to assume crowds could be huge. In 2008, fans filled downtown streets following both KU’s semifinal win in the Final Four and following the National Championship victory. The downtown crowd was estimated at 40,000 people following KU’s championship win against Memphis.
Khatib said his department will be ready for the masses.
Law enforcement officers from 10 other area agencies will be joining LPD staff downtown. Those helping out include: the KU police department, the KU Med Center police department, Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, the Ottawa Police Department, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department, Overland Park Police Department, the Olathe Police Department, the Lenexa Police Department and the Kansas Highway Patrol.
In total, Khatib said “several hundred officers” will be available for downtown duty.
“We have gotten great support from the law enforcement community,” Khatib said. “They don’t charge us for this. They provide this service through a mutual aid type of arrangement. We provide them water and snacks, but they don’t charge us for their expenses.”
One other change that may be on tap for the weekend is that leaders of Downtown Lawrence Inc. are asking downtown building owners to do what they can to restrict access to Massachusetts Street rooftops.
A message from Downtown Lawrence Inc. said allowing fans on rooftops created concerns about people accidently coming into contact with utility lines, falls, or items being dropped on crowd members from above.