ATLANTA - Atlanta police continue to be on high alert as the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game is set for the Georgia Dome on Monday night.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to be downtown for the game.
On Sunday night, a large crowd packed Centennial Olympic Park and the surrounding streets for a free concert series featuring Sting and the Dave Matthews Band.
The crowds were so large that authorities shut down the gates an hour before the Dave Matthews Band even took the stage. The downtown park can safely hold about 50,000 people.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the park is officially closed. There will be no more access tonight," a security officer at the main gate announced. "Feel free to roam the streets, no more access to park tonight."
That left thousands of people outside, unable to get into the park. A few dozen jumped the gates. Some were able to rush in, while others were captured and returned outside by security.
Despite the large crowd, Atlanta police report no major problems for the weekend of festivities heading into the championship Monday.
Channel 2 Action News was the only station allowed access to the police department’s Final Four Command Center Sunday. Federal, state, and city agencies are watching via 1,300 cameras and hundreds of officers, trying to make sure everything runs smoothly.
"We've got a lot of eyes and ears out there and we've got a lot of cameras watching," said Atlanta police Maj. Joseph Spillane.
Officers will remain on mandatory 12-hour shifts throughout the game.
One tourist visiting from California warned of a scam artist near the Georgia Dome. Jim Walker said he gave $1,150 to a scalper for three tickets to Saturday's two final four games. Walker said the man took his money and said he would be right back with the tickets, but didn’t follow through.
Walker told Channel 2’s Liz Artz for 15 years he and his friend, Alan, have traveled the country to every Final Four series. They make a three- to four-day trip of it. They call themselves basketball junkies and always use scalpers. He said he’s been burned twice, once in Chicago and now, in Atlanta.
His friend, Alan Walker, said he's not as trusting. He chased down the scalper and confronted him in the nearby CNN building but was only able to get back $500 of the $1,100.
If a scalper is 2,700 feet from the venue and allowed on the property, there's not a lot officers can do. Police said scalpers have to have a business license and that's usually how they are charged.
In this case, though, the scalper likely wasn’t a half-mile from the venue as required, but police don’t think they’ll ever see him again. Walker said he’ll continue using scalpers, but will be more careful next time.
NCAA games offer economic boost
The NCAA Final Four tournament is expected to rake in $70 million for the city of Atlanta.
Artz talked to restaurant owners, vendors and patrons, who all said the crowds were much bigger than expected.
New York resident Isiah Aiala said he expects to spend at least $1,500 during his visit in Atlanta. He said the money will go to a hotel, food, drinks, festivities – and maybe even the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola.
He came down for the Final Four games and said he'll likely come back this summer for another trip.
The city expects 100,000 visitors and 10,000 hotel rooms booked. Channel 2 Action News found a lot of local residents spending big money, too.
Deaaron Jackson expects to fork out $1,000 for three days of concert-going. He said that's for food, drinks and parking for three days straight.
Jackson came out to see the band Muse Saturday night. Those are just two of 11 bands playing in a three-day free concert series paid for by sponsors. One concert-goer said not to be fooled by the word free. She spent $10 on funnel cakes and pulled $60 out of the ATM for the night.
One beer vendor said they ran out of beer and cups by 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon. They brought cartloads in from other businesses – one concession where, no doubt, money is being made.
Artz talked to owners and managers at two restaurants right in the thick of it. They both said they anticipate to make in four days what they normally would in about four weeks.
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