There will be more police officers in and around Chesapeake Energy Arena and Bricktown, but Thunder Alley should otherwise resemble its regular season form on Thursday night in Oklahoma City for the Thunder's playoff game.
The video board outside the arena won't show a live broadcast of the game, as it did during previous playoff games, including the Thunder's win May 21 that was followed by a shooting in Bricktown. Officials expect that alone will make the crowd much smaller than the 6,000 people who gathered to watch the Thunder close out the Lakers before the shooting nearby, but the police presence will be increased nonetheless.
“We'll have plainclothes officers. We'll have officers in uniform. We'll have officers mixing with the crowd,” said police spokesman Capt. Dexter Nelson, who cited security concerns in declining to say how many extra officers will be on duty. “We'll have officers inside and outside the arena.”
Thunder Alley itself will follow the regular season model: Food vendors, games, activities and other events will end when the game starts, team spokesman Dan Mahoney said. Those events had continued during the watch parties in the playoffs but no longer.
People are still free to gather on Reno Avenue during the game, which will remain closed as part of the team's permit to hold Thunder Alley, Nelson said. Officers will be patrolling the area in increased numbers, though.
“If people hang out, they hang out,” Nelson said. “We're going to be out there actively looking for an element that looks like they're up to no good. ... But we're not going to, when they turn the screen off, start marching through there telling people they've got to leave.”
Eight people were injured in shooting
The Bricktown shooting, which left eight people wounded, prompted the changes. Soon after the shooting, city officials said the ever-growing watch parties couldn't continue without major changes. The team announced the end of the watch parties shortly thereafter.
Attorneys and officials have said the suspected shooter in the incident attended the Thunder Alley watch party before being involved in a fight in Bricktown that precipitated the violence.