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Final Four: Safety, security and lessons learned from Astroworld festival

Houston's fire chief said there is a well-established “stop show” plan in place, essentially pulling the plug on any concert should things begin to get out of hand.

HOUSTON — It’s not Houston’s first rodeo hosting the Final Four, but this year’s festivities promise to be “bigger, bolder and grander” if you ask Mayor Sylvester Turner.

“Game on,” declared Turner at a Monday morning news conference. “It’s showtime!”

Along with Final Four Fan Fest at the George R. Brown Convention Center and the March Madness Music Festival at Discovery Green, the Houston Astros will be playing a homestand at nearby Minute Maid Park, and the Toyota Center will also host a Rockets game and New Edition concert over the weekend.

“When you're traveling to and from, please be patient, be considerate, we can't do this by ourselves,” said Houston Police Chief Troy Finner.

READ: Astros, Rockets, Final Four, concerts: Here's what to know about a busy week in Houston 

Finner and other city officials said parking is likely to be a nightmare and encouraged the use of ride-share services or METRO Transit, which is offering free rides on any light rail line over the weekend. And when you do come downtown, make sure to leave the big purse behind—only small clutches or a clear plastic bag are allowed at any NCAA event.

READ: Transportation, parking options for downtown and NRG Stadium for Final Four weekend 

Unlike the past Final Four in 2016, the free concerts at Discovery Green are ticketed events requiring online registration. Friday’s performance by Megan Thee Stallion is already sold out.

Capacity for the concerts is 22,000, and 20,000 tickets have been released, according to Holly Kesterson with Houston’s Local Organizing Committee. Others may be placed on a waiting list and may not get in.

“The reality is, capacity is capacity, and once we reach capacity that is it,” said Ban Tien, Assistant Chief of the Houston Police Department.

The concert procedure changes come in the wake of the tragedy at Astroworld, where 10 people were killed in a crowd surge and crowd crush at the Nov. 2021 festival.

Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena said his department and Houston Police have carefully reviewed the security and medical plans submitted by concert promoters and are taking other safety precautions.

“We're going to have a monitoring from up top,” Pena said. “We're going to have people in the crowd, we're going to have people in the perimeters to ensure that the communication processes is efficient.”

Unlike Astroworld, Chief Pena said there is a well-established “stop show” plan in place, essentially pulling the plug on any concert should things begin to get out of hand.

Additionally, HPD Chief Troy Finner said hundreds of officers, both “seen and unseen” will be in and around Discovery Green.

“You’re going to see marked units, and you’re not going to see plain-clothes officers,” Finner said.

Jeremy Rogalski on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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