Thunder Alley will return to being a pre-game festivity only. No more watch parties on the giant screen on Reno Avenue. I don’t know what other option the city had. The answer clearly was beefing up the police on duty, but the city can’t afford that. It’s not any more complicated than that.
The truth is, the atmosphere around Thunder Alley changed for the worse the larger the event became. I’ve heard tons of accounts from people Monday night who noticed a distinct change. It became a little scary. Even a lot scary. That’s independent of the shootings that occurred after the game, three blocks east over in Bricktown.
So a cool concept has gone the way of the wind. Earlier Wednesday, I blogged about the similarities between Thunder Alley and the Eskimo Joe’s anniversary celebration, which was discontinued in 1993 for much the same reasons. You can read that here.
After my blog, I got a response from Norman McNickle, who in 1993 was Stillwater’s chief of police and now is its director of public safety. Here’s what McNickle said:
“It is a shame that a few can ruin what are otherwise fine events by their bad actions. I actually spoke with others about the comparison between Thunder Alley and Eskimo Joe’s anniversary. Eskimo Joe’s event had a relatively peaceful ‘reunion’ atmosphere early in the evening. As time passed, it became clear the makeup of the crowd turned from predominantly ‘Stillwater and OSU Alumni’ to more unsavory elements between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. Assaults, intoxication, arsons, vandalism, theft and other criminal activity increased exponentially after 11 p.m. Attendance by gang members increased significantly. As years passed, more and more armed people were removed from the crowd until the shooting in 1993 ended the event. After 11 p.m., there seemed to exist an ‘anything goes’ attitude in the event area.
“Over the years, we increased our staffing from using (at that time) all 70-plus Stillwater officers, all of OSU PD’s 30-plus officers and ultimately hired an additional 100 deputies from Tulsa County. Even with this large staffing level, we were unable to provide sufficient resources to safety police the event.
“I sincerely sympathize with OKC PD and the other officials who must decide the future of Thunder Alley. Beyond encircling Thunder Alley (or Eskimo Joe’s) with fences and gated entrances with metal detectors, it is impossible to prevent unsavory or armed attendees. And I don’t know that those involved in the shooting were ever at Thunder Alley. This same fact circumstance applied to the Joe’s event. Regardless, the groups became intermingled, and law enforcement is responsible to attempt to maintain order in a large area.
“My wife and I have become Thunder fans, attended games, and enjoyed the atmosphere both in the arena and in Thunder Alley. Once again, it is sad to have to consider ending otherwise great events due to the actions of a few. It is a sad commentary on our society.”