The Dirt Bowl street basketball tournament begins this weekend—and despite organizers predictions of a violence-free affair, Louisville Metro Police are planning an increased presence around Shawnee Park.
Police plan to have more than 20 patrol officers, mounted police and VIPER Unit members at the park during the tournament’s opening weekend, said Major Bill Kristofeck, commander of LMPD’s Second Division. A group of volunteer ambassadors will also be present, he added.
Kristofeck said the added patrol will contribute to an already large amount of overtime the department paid since the March 22 outbreak of youth violence in downtown Louisville. Louisville Metro Police spent about $1 million on overtime since March 22.
Kristofeck said having extra officers present for the Dirt Bowl is necessary, as past violence has threatened the safety of spectators and players alike.
“We would rather have more officers there than not enough,” he said.
But event organizer Neal Robertson said positive community engagement is better to curb violence than additional police.
“People don’t care about the police being present if they want to do something to somebody,” he said. “If people don’t go out and communicate with these people then they are going to continue to do the things they have been doing.”
Robertson said the police presence can be helpful, though, in case something does “kick off.” He added that no one should feel threatened—not by the police or the people in the crowd.
“It is a community event,” he said. “We’re all on the same page.”
Robertson said top basketball talent from the area will participate in the tournament, as well as professional players from overseas and a few members of the UofL basketball team. He said he expects former University of Louisville player Chane Behanan to also play.
Event organizer Cheryl Ford said an ESPN crew plans to attend during opening weekend to work on a street ball documentary.
This will mark the 44th year of the Dirt Bowl. The tournament will be played on weekends through mid-August.
Several community organizations will also be available throughout the tournament to offer health and educational resources, such as health insurance registration and scholarship information.
The Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness will also offer free HIV screening on the following days:
- Sun. June 22, 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.
- Sat. June 28, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
- Sat. July 19, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
- Sun. Aug. 3, 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.
- Sat. Aug. 9, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
- Sun. Aug. 17, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.