AUSTIN (KXAN) — The early morning storm hit as thousands are in Austin for the 90th Texas Relays. Organizers expect 7,800 competitors and 20,000 fans from 37 states and 20 countries to be here for the country’s second largest track competition.
For UT’s track and field coach, the Relays are a chance to recruit top athletes.
“It’s one thing to look at stats but it’s one thing to watch them compete and carry themselves on and off the track I think is important,” says Mario Sategena, UT Head Track and Field Coach.
It’s also an event that used to see dozens of people arrested downtown but Austin Police say a new strategy has changed that. In years past, there were large fights inside the former Highland Mall and businesses closing for the weekend. Arrests reached an all-time high of 86 in 2014.
Arrests per year of Texas Relays
- 2012: 36 arrested
- 2013: 22 arrested
- 2014: 86 arrested
- 2015: 9 arrested
- 2016: 5 arrested
That’s when Austin Police decided to change their strategy for dealing with the large crowds downtown during the Texas Relays which resulted in only five arrests last year. They brought in their crowd control team to Sixth Street and have downtown command officers near Fifth and Seventh Street bars.
“We coordinate with University of Texas Police, Barton Creek Mall, Austin Community College because these are other areas where people go to hang out and share experiences and we talk to everyone and we have a plan,” says Jason Dusterhoft, APD Assistant Police Chief, Downtown Command.
The Relays also lead to more traffic and street closures.
The street closures may begin as early as 6 p.m. The following streets may be intermittently closed, when necessary, for traffic safety:
- Southbound Frontage road at 11th Street
- 8th Street exit ramp from Interstate 35 Southbound
- Cesar Chavez exit ramp from I-35 Southbound
- Northbound frontage at 8th Street
- Northbound frontage at 6th Street
- 6th Street exit ramp from I-35 Northbound
- Northbound frontage road at the entrance ramp from 7th Street
Drivers are encouraged to use Mopac Expressway, Congress Avenue, Martin Luther King Boulevard, Guadalupe Street or Lamar Boulevard to get into the Downtown area. Motorists are encouraged to drive with caution when in the 6th Street Entertainment District due to high pedestrian traffic.