In your strategic planning for a parking space downtown in the event of a major celebration after Kansas University’s Final Four game Saturday, you can eliminate the top level of the New Hampshire Street parking garage.
The city has posted signs saying toady that level — which is the 24-hour free-parking section of the garage — will be closed so city vehicles can be parked there in case they will be needed if thousands of people flood downtown.
“It has been posted in advance to let people know about the plan and to make alternate arrangements,” said Sgt. Trent McKinley, a Lawrence police spokesman.
KU’s game in New Orleans against Ohio State is scheduled to tip off at 7:49 p.m. after the Kentucky-Louisville game.
McKinley said the other levels of the New Hampshire Street garage and the Riverfront Garage north of Seventh and Rhode Island streets likely would be best bets for parking before the game — or at least for anyone lucky enough to get a spot there. Otherwise, he advised against parking in core areas along or close to Massachusetts Street.
City officials are preparing in case of a major celebration and urging people to be safe. An estimated 40,000 people celebrated downtown in 2008 after KU defeated Memphis in the national championship game.
If KU defeats Ohio State today, the city plans to close Massachusetts Street from Sixth Street south to 13th Street, and police said this likely means anyone who parks on Massachusetts Street won’t be able to get out until the streets clear hours later.
Several hundred officers from Lawrence and area departments will be deployed downtown.
McKinley said that if KU loses, the streets likely won’t close because many people probably would head home, but officers would still be deployed to maintain peace.
“We’re down there to make sure that everybody stays safe. Most of the decisions we’ve made have surrounded the safety aspects of things,” McKinley said. “We want people to come down and have fun, but any kind of violence is going to be addressed, and any kind of property damage is going to be addressed.”
The city and police department has also offered these safety tips in case of a major celebration:
• Stay in groups and notify family members of your plans.
• Do not get into vehicles with individuals you do not know.
• Cans and bottles will not be allowed downtown.
• Stay off rooftops.
• Do not bring dogs downtown into crowds because it could pose a safety risk and use caution if you have small children with you.
• Celebrate responsibly and be aware of your surroundings.