While students miss State Street celebrations, lack of block party will save city thousands

State Street with no one on it. Photo by Taylor Pence

McKenna Horsley

For many UK basketball fans, seeing a couch or two burn during the NCAA Tournament has become an annual tradition.

In the second round of this year’s tournament, the men’s basketball team lost in a close game against Indiana University, preventing droves of fans from gathering on State Street to celebrate — a relief or disappointment, depending on whom you ask.

State Street celebrations started in 2011 when UK made its first Final Four appearance under head coach John Calipari. Susan Straub, director of communications for the Lexington mayor’s office, said State Street celebrations have cost the Lexington Police Department, Lexington Fire Department and Division of Code Enforcement nearly $320,000 over the past five years. Much of these funds go toward overtime for employees of all departments.

The Lexington Police Department has spent $292,703, the most from any city resource. The fire department spent its own highest total, $12,754.23, last year when UK’s season ended after losing to the University of Wisconsin in the Final Four. Financial reports from the Division of Streets and Roads, which sweeps the streets after fans leave State Street, or the Division of Waste Management are not included in the total amount. 

Straub also said the city pulls this money from contingency funds, but it does not specifically account for State Street costs in the city budget.

Lexington and UK Police together have maintained the State Street crowd in the past. UK Police Chief Joe Monroe said UK Police officers are stationed toward the university-owned property on State Street. He estimated both departments deploy station “a couple hundred” officers during State Street celebrations.

Preparations for State Street begin at UK “way before the tournament even starts,” Monroe said. UK Police prepare by taking Monroe’s crowd management class and attending an annual training.

Monroe said UK Police spent about $44,000 on managing State Street crowds last year. “We spend a lot of time going over the prior years’ incidents and seeing what we can learn from it,” he said.

Most incidents on State Street are alcohol-related and small fires. Monroe said the number of couch fires have gone down in the past few years.

Assistant Vice President of Public Safety Anthany Beatty has been involved in every UK Final Four appearance since 1978, serving in different roles at in the Lexington Police Department and at UK before fans gathered on State Street and gathered in other areas such as Woodland Avenue and Euclid Avenue, serving in different roles at in the Lexington Police Department and at UK. He said more emphasis should be placed on the positive celebrations than the negative situations that arise out of State Street.

“Unfortunately, sometimes things go bad and people do things they shouldn’t, and that causes problems and makes the media, but generally that’s not the emphasis,” Beatty said. “The emphasis is on having fun.”

Despite becoming a notorious area for UK fans to celebrate, many college students live on State Street.

Integrated strategic communication sophomore Katy Enyeart and her five roommates moved to State Street this year, expecting to go out with fellow fans after a UK win. In anticipation, they began to make a UK banner to hang from the roof of their house in anticipation.

“Part of me is wishing I could have experienced it, because I live on State Street … but I’m also kind of glad it’s not going to be crazy,” Enyeart said.

Economics senior Dakota Stokes said the street is a “lively” place on any given day, not just during the NCAA Tournament.

Stokes’ landlord warned him and his roommate about issues the celebrations could cause. Stokes said the city posted notices and letters to residents before the NCAA Tournament, recommending they move their cars and not leave breakable items near the street.

“It’s part of the package deal,” Stokes said. “Four years of Kentucky basketball kind of prepares you for all that.”