Archive for Thursday, March 28, 2013

Police, city officials, plan for celebrations if Jayhawks advance in tournament

March 28, 2013


City officials certainly hope the Jayhawks win this weekend, but some worry about what will happen if they do.

It's called March Madness for a reason, and the unruly crowds swarming Massachusetts Street and other neighborhoods during past college basketball tournaments have cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If the Kansas University men’s basketball team wins on Friday and Sunday, a similar scene is expected as the team advances to the NCAA Final Four next weekend. Based on previous years' experience, the party would get started after a victory on Sunday.

As they have in the past, police have planned an elaborate strategy for dealing with that possibility, including an emergency command center to coordinate with Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical and the city’s utilities and parks departments. Police officers were out on foot Thursday reminding downtown bars and restaurants of a city ordinance that specifically bans glass beverage containers during a Jayhawk appearance in the Final Four and championship game.

“We’ve been preparing for this for months,” said Sgt. Trent McKinley, a Lawrence Police Department spokesman. “Luckily for us, we’ve done this a few times.”

In this April 7, 2008 file photo, an estimated 40,000 people celebrate on Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence after the Kansas Jayhawks defeated the Memphis Tigers to win the 2008 NCAA National Championship title.

In this April 7, 2008 file photo, an estimated 40,000 people celebrate on Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence after the Kansas Jayhawks defeated the Memphis Tigers to win the 2008 NCAA National Championship title.

The celebrations are memorable, but they come at a price. About 60,000 people descended on the downtown area during the Jayhawks’ tournament run last year, McKinley said, costing the city $200,000 in property damage and city employee overtime. When Kansas lost the final game to Kentucky, fans damaged a traffic light and street signs, particularly in the area of Kentucky Street. People often attempt to climb streetlights, creating a real danger of the metal pole falling into a crowd. In the Oread neighborhood last year, someone set a wicker couch on fire.

“Actually, it was a love seat,” McKinley said. “But it was a total loss.”

This weekend, police and other city officials will mainly be watching and waiting. If there is a Final Four celebration in Lawrence, there will be no days off for Lawrence police next weekend, and they will be reinforced by officers from about 10 outside agencies. Police have plans to install temporary cameras to monitor downtown, and the city will provide portable toilets, as usual. McKinley said police will close streets as needed if celebrations happen next weekend.

The police department’s goal, McKinley said, isn’t to spoil anyone’s March Madness fun, but to make sure everyone is safe. It costs: police working on their day off are paid overtime, and the temporary cameras are expensive to install. Law enforcement from outside agencies are not paid, essentially donating their time.

To help create a safe environment, McKinley works with Cathy Hamilton, director of the Downtown Lawrence Inc. merchants’ association, to clear the area of dangerous objects.

Hamilton helps distribute information to bar and restaurant owners about the glass ordinance, which bars any use of glass beverage containers on public property between Sixth and 13th Streets on New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont Streets. Violation of the ordinance can bring a $100 fine.

Years of tournament success under coach Bill Self have also taught Hamilton and store owners the prudence of putting away the patio furniture and preventing employees from gaining access to the rooftops.

“I remind them to put away anything that can be used as a projectile,” Hamilton said. “Flags, tables, chairs, newspaper racks.”

For now, Hamilton said, she is watching and waiting like everyone else, and she credited the police department with learning how to handle the events well.

“It’s very comforting for me and the merchant to know that we’ve been here before,” she said. “They pretty much have it down to a science.”

Hamilton also credited Lawrence basketball fans with showing relative restraint. “Our people are pretty well-mannered, when you look at what they do in some other markets, where they set cars on fire,” she said. “Not to name names.”

Hamilton might have been referring to incidents such as the fires in Lexington, Ky., after the University of Kentucky beat Louisville in an NCAA semifinal game last year.

Not all the activity will be taking place downtown. Companies in the lucrative business of selling Final Four t-shirts started planning for temporary Lawrence stores weeks ago. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department is in the process of issuing permits for four locations where tents would be set up to sell Final Four merchandise.

Lawrence's Jock's Nitch has filed for permits for the parking lot of the Hillcrest Shopping Center at 925 Iowa and for the lot at the former University Book Shop at 1116 W. 23rd Street, and Lawrence's Sun Creations has filed for permits for the parking lot of the Westridge Shopping Center at Sixth Street and Kasold Drive, and for the Checkers grocery store parking lot at 2300 Louisiana.


Steve Jacob 5 years ago

I think the bottle beer ban is fantastic. Bars have to make more money on draws anyway.

kansasredlegs 5 years ago

Cold Stone better cuff that bear to its chair, saw it getting a piggy back ride last year until the police surveillance cameras gots its first collar & justified the expense of their installation.

riverdrifter 5 years ago

“Actually, it was a love seat,” McKinley said. “But it was a total loss.”

There's a metaphor there but I'll leave that for someone else.

Maddy Griffin 5 years ago

Rock Chalk!! KU has the BEST fans!! We do it big. Can't wait for Sunday night!!

Matthew Herbert 5 years ago

a word to the wise - don't park on Mass Street. I'm always amazed by how many people drive downtown and park their cars the night of the celebration. Unless you want 2000 different people bouncing on the hood of your car, I'd suggest leaving it in the garage and walking. Just because we've never lit a car on fire, doesn't mean we haven't sent a few cars to an early grave via other means. Perhaps we could make use of the T as a shuttle? It might actually help inflate the rider numbers.

msezdsit 5 years ago

You know, one or maybe two bad apples spoils the whole party. However, if you look at all the world series, super bowl, ncaa championships, and all the big crowds and the ensuing mob celebrations, KU fans and Lawrence have been a model for all to follow. Lucky to have a team that puts us in that position and lucky to have great fans. You have to give the LPD a lot of credit for handling these situations. They have done a great job in the past. You kind of have to take a page out of the Andy Griffith manual on how to enforce the law. If we get to point, be sure and show respect to the police and you will get along. Go Hawks, hope they get through toinghts game. It is going to take their A game for the whole game.

Richard Heckler 5 years ago

Well LPD and Sgt. Trent McKinley, OUR Lawrence Police Department spokesman..

Why not simply cover downtown meters with "No Parking" baggies? No one knows who and will never know who but some car owners will be thankful at the end of the night that our Lawrence police department got a little heavy handed.

The auto insurance industry will likely cheer this idea on in a big way.

Fans can walk,bike.The T or taxi cab it to downtown. Better than a crushed hood,caved in top or broken windows.

In fact why not block off any vehicle traffic between 11th and 6th street. Give the street to the people.

irvan moore 5 years ago

it's a nice walk down Mass street to get downtown, hundreds of people crowding the sidewalks heading for the party, everyone in high (some especially high) spirits

Richard Heckler 5 years ago

Of course if 6000 peaceful protestors wee coming out to promote a $12.30 minimum wage, very affordable Medicare Single Payer health insurance, forgiveness of inflated college loans and demanding 11 million jobs back into the economy doing no damage for any reason it is likely the FBI,KBI,CIA,LPD,Sherrif Dept and the national guard would waiting well armed.

But for basketball blind eyers are in order.

No I don't believe Lawrence needs all of the above for either but the discrimination did cross my mind.

Jayhawks from this point forward might I suggest playing both halves like you all play most second halves. The Wichita State Shockers are looking upon......

drillsgt 5 years ago

Don't worry about it..the fans went home.

msezdsit 5 years ago

wonder if wsu is celebrating tonight?

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

Good for WSU. I hope they are celebrating and hope they get to celebrate two more wins.

If not KU, then another in-state school.

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