The Thunder Alley watch party is no more. The pregame street festival will continue, but the party ends at tipoff inside Chesapeake Arena. Many people are disappointed. Some have complained. Others have tried to think of solutions. Including this intriguing idea: move the watch party indoors. Take it into the Cox Center.
Go old school. Recreate the old closed-circuit television feeling. Show the game on big screens across the street from the ‘Peake.
First and foremost, would that solve the safety concerns? Depends, of course, on if the knuckleheads who ruined the party Monday night go indoors. As you know, the firing of gunshots wasn’t the only problem Monday night. By multiple accounts, the atmosphere turned scary and ugly during the watch party for Game 5. I don’t know what makes a punk tick, so I have no idea if an inside watch party is appealing, considering everyone has a seat and is expected to use it. But seems like the allure might be gone. Outside, you can move around, spread your grief. Not so easy in an arena. And the concourses of the convention center could be patrolled with relative ease by peace officers.
Second, would it be financially feasible? Opening an arena is a lot more costly than closing a street. Could the city afford it? How much would it cost the Thunder? Would fans need to be charged a nominal fee, $5 or so? That would be unfortunate, because even that would be cost prohibitive for some.
The beauty of Thunder Alley in its short-lived good days was the community spirit it fostered. The idea that more than just those of us lucky enough to be inside Chesapeake Arena could be part of a shared experience in following the Thunder. Sure, anyone could stay home and watch the Thunder. But many are attracted to the communal experience, even if it’s watching on a video screen.
Here’s an email I received Wednesday from a Thunder fan named Nikki: “Of all the Thunder Alleys that have went so well and allowed the fans to come together to support our team and show everyone how proud we are to be the home of the Thunder, all it is going to take is a couple of thugs to ruin it for everyone. Now they propose having Thunder Alley but end it at game time and no big screen. Really??? So fans can come out, then miss at least the first quarter in traffic since the ‘family’ can’t watch from the bars in Bricktown. We live 90 miles away and enjoy half-season tickets normally but can’t always get playoff tickets since they sell out so fast. Thunder Alley was a way everyone could participate. Thugs aren’t just in Thunder Alley. We’ve walked next to several during the season that came out of the arena and others trolling Bricktown when games weren’t even going on. Please pass it on that using the Cox Center would be a great option. Revenue for that facility out of concessions and some of the door money could go to Thunder Cares. Win, win & watch the Thunder win.”
So there you go. I’m sure there are all kinds of logistical problems I haven’t thought of. But I know this. Thunder Alley was a great idea. Watching the games together with like-minded fans was well-received. If there’s any way to preserve it, I’d love to see it happen.