Celebrate safely and respect your neighbors was the message coming from Mayor Jim Gray and University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto during a news conference Wednesday about UK's play in the Final Four this weekend.
“Have fun. Celebrate our victories. But do it in a way that is safe and respects the property of the neighbors living near campus,” said Gray.
President Eli Capilouto agreed: “Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of our students and our community. As part of that effort, we expect our students to enjoy this special time in a responsible and positive way. To that end, the university and the city are again partnering to ensure that the appropriate protections and measures are in place. We so very much appreciate all the city is doing with us to help ensure that environment is in place.”
Public safety officers from the city and the campus have joined forces, with a multi-faceted enforcement and safety plan to ensure citizens, business owners and students will have a safe weekend.
The plan includes changes to the downtown traffic flow and increased protection for public and private property, especially in the neighborhoods surrounding areas where students traditionally celebrate their beloved Cats.
Lexington Police Chief Ronnie Bastin said officers in Lexington have a lot of experience handling UK celebrations. “However we also know what can happen when the celebration gets out of hand,” Bastin said. “Remember to be safe, responsible and law abiding as you celebrate.”
UK Police Chief Joe Monroe agreed. “UK Police will work closely with all of our local public safety partners to achieve a safe environment for our students and for all UK fans in the campus vicinity. We certainly want to avoid incidents that would overshadow the achievement of playing in the Final Four."
UK and Lexington police are planning increased patrols on foot, on bikes and in cars around campus and across the city, before and after the games. NCAA Police Incident Commander Kelli Edwards said officers will arrest those who are destroying property or putting themselves or others in danger, “Tipping cars, setting fires, destroying property and throwing projectiles will not be tolerated. We will make arrests,” she said.
Interim Fire Chief Keith Jackson reminded citizens to help fire officials as they travel to and from emergency situations. “Citizens are asked to keep streets clear, and allow emergency response vehicles passage at all times during the weekend,” he said.
The city is opening an emergency triage center at the Fire Station on Woodland Avenue to ensure prompt treatment of medical emergencies. “Persons with medical emergencies can report to that area during the NCAA games and several hours following, for emergency medical treatment,” Jackson said.
Fire will also join Code Enforcement Director David Jarvis in trying to stop neighborhood fires that have marred recent celebrations. “We’re asking citizens to work with us by keeping streets, sidewalks and public thoroughfares clear of garbage and debris,” Jarvis said.
“It is such an exciting time to be a part of Big Blue Nation," Micah Fielden, UK student body president,” said. “As a senior, experiencing back-to-back Final Four appearances is something I had dreamed about and am so excited for this weekend. We are part of a storied tradition, a legacy we have been entrusted with and must honor. This weekend, I hope our student body will join me in celebrating responsibly and safely."
• Extra police officers from UK, the Lexington Division of Police, and the Kentucky State Police will be on duty in and around the downtown area and neighborhoods surrounding campus on foot, in cars and on bicycles.
• Citizens are asked to keep streets clear, and allow emergency response vehicles passage at all times.
• Celebration is acceptable, but tipping cars, setting fires, destroying property and throwing projectiles will not be tolerated and will result in arrest.
• Police urge motorists to use extra patience on the road.
• Motorists should avoid the UK campus area and the downtown area immediately following the games (especially South Limestone Street and Euclid Avenue.)
• Several no parking and towing areas will be designated during the weekend. These areas include sections of South Limestone Street, and Woodland and Euclid Avenues.
Code Enforcement and Sanitation
• Code enforcement officers will cite residents for trash and debris violations.
• City waste management crews will be on hand in the hours following the NCAA games to ensure streets are clean and clear for vehicles and pedestrian traffic.
• Fire and Emergency Services will be operating an emergency triage center at Fire Station 5 on Woodland Avenue. Persons with medical emergencies can report to that area during the NCAA games and several hours following, for emergency medical treatment.