OKC Officials: Thunder Alley Watch Party Cannot Continue In Current Form
OKLAHOMA CITY - Thunder and city leaders agree the Thunder Alley watch party cannot continue in its current form. They say allowing huge crowds to pack downtown streets to watch the game needs to come to an end.
About 7,000 people were on downtown streets Monday night. Ever since News 9 first broke the story on its 4 p.m. newscast, Thunder Alley has been the talk of Oklahoma City.
The image of thousands of Thunder fans flocking to downtown streets has been seen around the world. The mayor says it is unique for Oklahoma City, but the image of large crowds needs to end for public safety concerns.
"The manner in which we've known as Thunder Alley has taken place and continued to grow just can't continue," Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said. "The way we've been doing it, isn't going to work anymore."
Thunder spokesperson Dan Mahoney says he is on the same page as the mayor.
"We agree completely with the mayor," Mahoney said.
Mahoney says Thunder Alley pregame events will continue. However, the outdoor watch party, which the world knows as Thunder Alley, is too much, according to Mahoney.
"We've reached the point, I think, where that event is too large," Mahoney said. "We're going to look at some options to ensure public safety."
News of the event's closure sparked a frenzy on social media websites. In fact, a staffer at the mayor's office says their social media outlets were full of people sharing their opinions on the intention to close the event. Thunder fans across the city are not happy.
"I couldn't believe that it went that far," Thunder fan Sheila Taylor said.
Taylor says she thinks the fans of Oklahoma City should be given a second chance and even a Lakers fan agreed.
"As a Lakers fan, seeing [Thunder Alley] on TV [makes you think] wow, this city is really united around the team," Lakers fan Jackie Foster said.
TNT sportscaster Craig Sager was in the crowd Monday night. He says he did notice some people who were there for the wrong reasons, but he still thinks the event should continue.
"It's the greatest video you can have at an NBA arena, and the crowd is just fantastic," Sager said. "You've got the best fans here in the world."
The Thunder, police and the city all say they hope to find another way for fans to show Thunder pride. However, the question remains, who will make that final call? Mahoney says it's the Thunder who has that power.
"We would make that final call decision as to whether we have that watch party component because it's our event," Mahoney said. "We're permitted for the street."
The city has the power to revoke the permit. City officials would not say if that permit would be continued. The Thunder says it plans to work in cooperation with the city on whatever it suggests.
Mayor Cornett says he announced the city's intentions before sitting down with the Thunder or NBA to get their input.