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Oklahoma City, Thunder officials re-evaluating “Thunder Alley” party in wake of shooting following Game 5

Gunfire that left at least eight people wounded and a pregnant woman injured is prompting Oklahoma City officials and the Oklahoma City Thunder to re-evaluate the watch party held during playoffs outside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, Modified: May 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm •  Published: May 22, 2012
The Oklahoma City Thunder remains alive in the NBA playoffs, but the team's watch parties in Thunder Alley are on the verge of elimination.

At least eight people were wounded by gunfire, and a pregnant woman was injured following the Thunder's 106-90 playoff victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals on Monday night.

Shots were fired about three blocks east of a Thunder Alley watch party, which occupied Reno Avenue between Chesapeake Arena and the Cox Convention Center.

“This ever-growing game night crowd that gathers on the street outside the building, that can't continue,” Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said Tuesday. “There are too many public safety concerns. As much as we love the expression of enthusiasm, it's no longer a workable situation.”

Thunder Alley originally was an occasional pregame party that included interactive games, concessions, and merchandise. It began three hours before tipoff and would shut down once the game started.

During this year's playoffs, a watch party was added and fans were invited to bring chairs and blankets to Thunder Alley to view the game on a new video display board (74 feet tall by 20 feet wide) that was mounted on the northwest side of Chesapeake Arena during recent renovations to the facility.

Crowds initially consisted of 2,000-3,000 people watching the game outside the arena, but swelled to an estimated 6,000-7,000 people on Monday night to watch the Thunder eliminate the Lakers and advance to the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs.

City officials met Tuesday and agreed to discontinue the watch parties in their current form. Cornett said there are several potential alternatives, including limiting the size of the crowd.

Another possibility would be to move the watch party into the arena across the street at the Cox Center, where the Thunder potentially could have two sellouts for the same game.

The Thunder has sold out (18,203) every home game this season at Chesapeake Arena.

Thunder Alley itself also could continue in its original form without the watch party.

“We're discussing alternatives to Thunder Alley,” Police Chief Bill Citty said. “You are getting such large crowds that they become uncontrollable. There are some indications that it (the altercation that led to the shooting) may have originated there. The biggest concern we have is the size of the crowds. You can't control that because it is an open area. Everybody is discussing options. The crowd is really a significant concern. You could have something else. Maybe someone gets sick or there is a medical problem. It creates problems.”

Cornett said city officials and the Thunder have yet to discuss possible alternatives.

“We need to hear from the team and what direction they would like to head,” Cornett said.

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