Despite thousands of people flooding the street to party Saturday, there were no serious injuries, accidents or property damage reported, according to Lawrence police.
Lt. Amy Rhoads said Sunday morning that she wasn’t even aware of any citations issued.
That would qualify as rock chalking responsibly, and that’s what she said officers are hoping fans will do Monday night, too.
Following the Jayhawks’ 2008 championship win, more than 80,000 people came downtown to celebrate, according to the city. The city estimates that on Saturday, there were between 15,000 and 20,000 people filling between four and five blocks of Massachusetts Street.
So even for the games before the championship, public safety planning is a “big operation” — it’s complicated, and it involves a lot of stakeholders, Rhoads said.
In previous years, the Lawrence City Commission has passed ordinances to ban glass bottles and containers from Mass Street. Rooftop activity was also banned in 2018. This year, there’s no official ban, but both are “highly discouraged” on game days.
Rhoads said Sunday that so far, neither has been a problem. She said police had spoken with downtown business owners and asked them to use plastic containers.
“We obviously don’t want anybody to get hurt or injured; we don’t want any projectiles in the crowd,” Rhoads said. “… I think our approach to that this year was very successful, and we hope that Monday, that will continue as well.”
In addition, Massachusetts Street was closed to vehicles from 6 a.m. through late Saturday in order to safely open the street to pedestrians, but also to avoid damage to vehicles that would have been parked on the street. In previous years, some cars have been destroyed from overexcited fans jumping on them. The street will be closed again Monday.
When officers are out on the street for events like this, their top priority is just to make sure everyone stays safe, Rhoads said.
“We don’t want anybody to get hurt. We want everybody to have a good time, and we want them to celebrate safely,” Rhoads said. “And so that is their (officers’) focus. If they see something happening where somebody could get hurt, that’s when we’re gonna intervene and try to address that situation at that moment.”
Otherwise, she said, they’re happy to hang back, stay vigilant and give fans high-fives. That includes new LPD Chief Rich Lockhart and KUPD Chief Nelson Mosley, who both got to experience the atmosphere for the first time, Rhoads said.
Officers from the Overland Park, Baldwin City, Prairie Village, Eudora, Leavenworth, Riley County, Shawnee, Ottawa, Olathe, Topeka and University of Kansas police departments, as well as the Johnson County, Shawnee County and Douglas County sheriff’s offices, all volunteered to come assist on Saturday, according to social media posts from the department. Many of them will be back again for the championship game, Rhoads said.
Tipoff is set for 8:20 p.m. Monday. That’s much later than Saturday’s game. Rhoads said that doesn’t really affect LPD’s plans, except that they know it’s going to be a late night.
“Obviously people are going to be celebrating and consuming alcohol, and you just never know how someone’s gonna respond to a win or a loss,” Rhoads said. “Hopefully we win Monday night and everybody will continue to ‘Rock Chalk responsibly.’ That’s been our message.”
Mass Street info:
Mass Street will close again at 6 a.m. Monday from Sixth Street south to 11th Street. About two hours ahead of tipoff, the closure will extend south to South Park Street.
Through traffic will be allowed on Ninth Street and 11th Street until two hours before tipoff, so around 6:20 p.m. Monday. Sixth Street will remain open to traffic all day.
Cars that are still parked on Mass Street after 6 a.m. Monday will be courtesy towed to the Community Center parking lot at 11th and Vermont streets, according to the city. Parking will be free downtown. (See a map of parking options at this link.)
Find more information on the city’s March Madness website.