Other UK Sports

Big Blue Life: Policing University of Kentucky fans inside and out of Rupp Arena

before UK played Loyola in Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Thursday, December, 22, 2011. Charles Bertram | Staff
before UK played Loyola in Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Thursday, December, 22, 2011. Charles Bertram | Staff Herald-Leader

The strategy and game plan was developed months ago. It was put to the test during exhibition games. And it will be adjusted as the University of Kentucky men's basketball team plays through the 2013-14 schedule.

There could be pressure because of the large crowds, but UK Police Chief Joe Monroe said very little would need to change in terms of the strategy for getting people in and out of Rupp Arena.

Big games "will draw in the bigger crowds, but we're accustomed to that after the past few years," Monroe said.

The crowds at Rupp Arena — about 23,000 when it is filled to capacity — are larger than the populations of some cities, Monroe said. Luckily, basketball fans are typically well- behaved, he said.

The chief said he was aware of the hype and excitement the team brings to downtown Lexington, which is why police figure things out "well ahead of the season."

"So right now, at this point in the season, we've got a pretty good feel for what our event management plan is going to be," he said this week in advance of Friday night's UK game against UNC Asheville.

At the beginning of the season, UK police have a safety and security meeting with Lexington police and other public safety officials, including fire, to create a plan to deal with large crowds. He said all games aren't the same, so they alter the plan depending on requirements of the game.

Monroe would not say how many officers were assigned to the arena, but he said all his officers received crowd-control training before the season.

UK police patrol the inside of the arena, focusing on lost or stolen tickets and watching for items that arena security might have missed, Monroe said. NCAA guidelines require officers to escort both teams and the referees on and off the court, and campus police also handle that.

Lexington police patrol the outside of the arena.

"We take care of the external traffic," Lexington police Cmdr. Thomas Curtsinger said. "Our ultimate goal is to get our game day travelers in and out as efficiently as possible."

On game days, about 20 Lexington police officers are assigned to intersections and crosswalks to move cars and people as safely as possible, said Curtsinger. Officers look for ticket scalpers to make sure they are not interfering with ticket purchases at the box office.

Curtsinger said officers typically get to the arena about two hours before tip-off. They might spend four to five hours tending to traffic and people, he said. The crowds are cleared out about 40 minutes after the game, he said.

Similar to campus police, Lexington officers receive extensive training so they know how to deal with large crowds — and traffic, Curtsinger said.

Officers understand that all games aren't the same, he said, so adjustments might be made. For example, the people in the command post sometimes are called out to help with crowd control, transfer information between supervisors and officers in the area, and in the event of an emergency.

In addition, bicycle and downtown officers are used to patrol parking lots to prevent thefts and accidents.

The number of officers a the games remains consistent, "whether it's 15,000 or 24,000" people in the crowd, Curtsinger said.

"In most situations it's overtime but varies when the game is held on weekdays or weekends," he said. "Most weekend games are all overtime."

The city picks up the tab, but the university reimburses public safety personnel for their participation in traffic and crowd control. That arrangement — an agreement made in 2003 by then-Mayor Teresa Isaac and then-UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. — holds true for UK basketball and football home games.

In 2012, the city received $267,447.78 — $36,626.75 for basketball season and $230,821.03 for football — for police and fire personnel who worked overtime, according to data provided by the mayor's office.

UK's Monroe said officers deal with "two different crowd dynamics" with UK basketball and football.

"They are night and day," he said.

During football season, police are responsible for nearly 100,000 people, Monroe said.

Regardless whether it's basketball or football, UK takes the lead when it comes to campus events, but "it truly has to be a partnership amongst public safety agencies to effectively collaborate and get a response plan together to keep everybody safe," said Monroe.

Do you have a question about some non-sports aspect of the culture surrounding UK basketball? Tweet your question to @heraldleader with hashtag #BBL, or email it to hlfeatures@herald-leader.com (subject line: #BBL).

EDITOR'S NOTE: Today we launch "Big Blue Life," an occasional feature in which we'll explore the Wildcat fever that grips Central Kentucky during UK's basketball season.
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