Street closure for NCAA block party approved

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An event planner’s dream of turning an alley into a party district will become reality. The Wichita City Council approved a resolution Tuesday, to shut down Commerce Street to traffic on March 15 and 17. That will allow Xclusive Event Services to form a block party on the street, bringing in food trucks and pop-up beer gardens to the area.

Crystal McDonald, co-owner of the service company, said she and another owner traveled to businesses across in the area to inform them of their plan. She said most of them were onboard with the idea, but at the council meeting Tuesday, there was some push back.

“I’m not excited about it at all,” said Matt Sheets. “I just don’t think that it’s fair that they can come in and take that money out of our registers and leave.”

Matt and Morrie Sheets are brothers who co-own Mort’s Martini bar in Wichita. They day they learned the tournament was coming to Intrust, they started upgrading television sets and security cameras. They also renovated various parts of their establishment. But they fear a nearby block party will bring competition and an unfair advantage.

“I just don’t think that it’s fair that they can come in and take that money out of our registers and leave,” Sheets said.

That plan would close Commerce Street on March 15 and 17, two of the biggest nights of the tournament. Then, food trucks and beer gardens will set up from 10am until 11pm. Off-duty police and private security will watch each block.

“We really tried to accommodate all of their needs to make sure they were taken care of,” said Crystal McDonald,  Co-owner of Xclusive Event Services. “We, as business owners, do not want to make them lose out on business. We want to make sure we have accommodated all of their needs.”

She said the idea isn’t to take business away, but provide another attraction to draw more fans to the area during the biggest nights of the tournament.

“We want everyone to benefit from this,” McDonald said.

Sheets doesn’t question the organization’s motives, saying he knows their intentions are sincere. He just hopes it goes as expected so his business doesn’t suffer.

“We’re going to make the best of it. We’re going to throw a heck of a party,” he said.

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