Atlanta Police Prepare For Historic NCAA Final Four in Downtown
The Atlanta Police Department is urging visitors to the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament and related events to expect, and prepare for, large crowds in excess of 100,000 per day and heavy traffic volume.
The Department has been planning for the five day event for more than a year. Nonetheless, the sheer volume of visitors will make traffic congestion inevitable as thousands of people visit a concentrated area of venues in Downtown Atlanta.
The events will be held at Philips Arena, the Georgia Dome, the Georgia World Congress Center, and Centennial Olympic Park and both pedestrian and vehicular traffic is expected to be extremely heavy around these venues.
The Atlanta Police Department is utilizing an ICS (Incident Command System) approach to handle the events, i.e. operating as a Unified Command with AFRD and the Georgia World Congress Center. There will be a Command Post at Public Safety Headquarters with representatives of all the major law enforcement agencies.
“Our Video Integration Center has more than 1,200 cameras throughout the city so that officers can keep an eye on the crowds,” Atlanta Police Chief George Turner said. “The Skywatch observation tower will be placed in Centennial Olympic Park to oversee the area and our Mounted Patrol will also be present to assist with crowd control. We are doing everything possible to ensure the safety of our residents and visitors.”
The Department has a plan in place to ensure smooth traffic flow, but APD is urging event-goers and other visitors to the Downtown area to plan ahead for their travel into the city.
The Atlanta Police Department strongly urges people to take MARTA or one of the many hotel shuttles operating throughout the weekend. Police officers will be visible to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience. The Department has canceled off-days and officers will be working 12-hour shifts to ensure full staffing of the weekend’s activities.
APD suggest the following for drivers who absolutely must drive into the city.
- Coming from the north to exit I-75 at Northside Drive and follow it south to the Dome.
- Other exits from I-75/85 southbound include Williams Street or M.L. King Jr. Drive, but both of these are expected to back up early.
- From the south, drivers on I-75/85 should take the International Blvd., Fulton St or Central Avenue exits.
- Fans coming in on I-20 east should use the Windsor/Spring Street exit. The best exits on I-20 west are Capitol Avenue or Windsor Street.
- Admission will be free to the Divisions II and III championship games, marking the first time the men’s basketball champions of all three NCAA divisions will be crowned in the same city.
APD urges everyone to only buy tickets from reputable sources. Counterfeit tickets have become sophisticated and hard to spot.
In addition to the two semi-final games on Saturday there will also be a series of free concerts at Centennial Olympic Park. The NCAA Bracket Town at the Georgia World Congress Center is also expected to draw large crowds.
Traffic volume will also increase due to a Braves home game every night from Thursday through Saturday, an afternoon game on Sunday as well as a Hawks game on Friday evening. There will also be a 5K race starting in Downtown Atlanta Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m.
“We are looking forward to a wonderful weekend of welcoming visitors to our city. I would like to remind everyone to pack some patience and remember everyone is here to have a good time”, Chief Turner added.
The APD also reminds people to always be mindful of their surroundings and use other common sense measures to reduce the chances of becoming the victim of a crime of opportunity. Thieves continue to target personal handheld electronics (smart phones and tablet computers), so take care to safeguard those during your visit.
Thefts of valuables from vehicles are an easily preventable crime. Adhere to the department’s “Clean Car Campaign,” and leave nothing of value in your motor vehicle when unattended, including firearms, electronics, cash and GPS units.
The APD also encourages anyone to report suspicious activity to dial 9-1-1. Suspicious activity may also be reported to the many on and off-duty Atlanta police officers that will be working the numerous venues throughout the city.