In what has apparently become a new rite of spring in Oklahoma City, the last weekend of April is going to be a busy one in and around downtown.
For the third consecutive spring, 18,000 Thunder fans will stream into Chesapeake Energy Arena for a playoff game during what's already the busiest weekend of the year downtown.
The Festival of the Arts and Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon draw their own crowds, along with three RedHawks games in Bricktown and performances at the Civic Center Music Hall.
But the city has already been there and done that, police Capt. Don Martin said. Most of the event organizers, fans, runners, festival goers and emergency crews have done this before or talked to people who have, and they know it's best to plan for crowded streets and parking areas.
“When you leave your house, be sure to have a plan,” said Martin, who supervises the Bricktown and downtown area.
“Don't try to just wing it. Have an idea for where you'd like to park, where you're going and what other events are in the area.”
Downtown streets are in a perpetual state of construction as Project 180 continues, but many of those streets have been opened and traffic flow should be decent, Martin said.
A new wild card this weekend is the demolition of the old Crosstown Expressway.
The state Department of Transportation shut down Western Avenue between Reno and California avenues on Thursday as part of that project, cutting off a primary route to Interstate 40.
It's not the best timing for a busy weekend, but the demolition schedule is critical, ODOT spokeswoman Terri Angier said.
“Not having it is just not an option when we've been saying for six years, ‘This is when we're going to start working,' and it's now happening,” Angier said.
She said business owners and event organizers who will be affected by future closures should contact ODOT to help minimize disruption.
“This is really the beginning of when we need everybody's patience, not the end of it.”
Staggered start times for the various popular events should help the parking situation, but spaces will be at a premium this weekend, said Debi Holtzclaw, the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority's parking services director.
Still, there should still be enough parking to go around.
People should have some backup options to their preferred parking spot, and keep their heads on a swivel once they approach where they're
“I wouldn't be picky,” Holtzclaw said. “If you find a spot, I'd take it.”
The Oklahoma weather could also be a factor this weekend, as it was last year when a hailstorm, the marathon, a Thunder playoff game and the arts festival all started before lunch one day.
There's at least a slight chance for thunderstorms in Oklahoma City from Saturday afternoon through Sunday night, according to the National Weather Service.