Downtown Lawrence prepares for a swarm of Jayhawks fans ready to celebrate a Final Four

Countdown to the Big Game! #RUNITBACK
February 07 2021 05:30 pm
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LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Get ready for a party.

Downtown Lawrence is, since there's one coming on Saturday night. Downtown merchants are prepping for basketball fanfare in the streets.

The University of Kansas (31-4) is only one victory away from the school's 15th trip to the Final Four. In Lawrence, the Elite Eight means plastic cups are in order at downtown watering holes.

Friday afternoon feels like the calm before the basketball storm. Downtown Lawrence is accustomed to seeing Massachusetts Street overflow with Jayhawk fans delighted to see their team advance in the NCAA Tournament, and police say some crowds in the past have included as many as 30,000 partiers.

Police say those crowds have been reasonably well-behaved, despite being huge at times.

Restaurant managers along Massachusetts Street, such as Tim Barnes, are ready for the crowds. He's been the general manager at Jefferson's for six years, and his kitchen and bar have spent weeks getting ready for the possibility the Jayhawks could fly this high.

"I would get here about five o'clock. Get here a few hours before the game, and scope out your spot and then, get your drinkin' pants on," Barnes said, recommending patrons get an early start on Saturday.

Jefferson's, as well as other downtown pubs, will be required to serve drinks in plastic cups all day. That's a Lawrence city ordinance that goes into effect when KU makes it to the Elite Eight or further in the NCAA Tournament.

"In a loss, everyone just kind of goes home, but a win, everyone stays downtown, and they'll block off the streets," Barnes said.

Just after the game, provided the Jayhawks beat Oregon (32-5) Lawrence Police will block off Mass Street to keep the party crowds safe.

"We will have additional officers out," LKPD Ofc. Drew Fennelley said.

Fennelley says officers will concentrate on safe behavior, rather than citing people for violation of open container laws.

"We want people to come out and have a good time. We want people to celebrate safely and to be mindful of their actions, and just be aware of their surroundings," Ofc. Fennelley said.

Spring break is still in effect for KU students until Monday. Ofc. Fennelley says that should keep the size of Saturday's party crowd under control. However, if the 'Hawks advance to the Final Four, or even the national championship game, look out. Mass Street could be another massive crowd again.

Jefferson's typically closes at midnight on Saturdays. However, that eatery, along with other downtown bars, plan to stay open late this weekend, if Kansas knocks off Oregon.



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