|Mayor: Peaceful All-Star weekend a "slam dunk" for city|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 18 February 2008 15:07|
New Orleans largely avoided the violence that tarnished last year's game in Las Vegas, where five people were shot and hundreds arrested during All-Star weekend, city officials said a day after Sunday's game.
In New Orleans over the weekend, police reported 98 arrests near All-Star festivities and a shooting early Monday in the French Quarter that left three people with minor injuries. Police said the shooting didn't appear to be linked to any All-Star activities.
``This event was a slam dunk for New Orleans and a slam dunk for the NBA,'' said Mayor Ray Nagin, who was flanked by New Orleans Hornets owner George Shinn at a City Hall press conference.
Shinn said other NBA owners who attended the game showered the city with praise.
``Everybody was as positive as could be,'' he said. ``We all should just be very proud of what's happened.''
Only about two-thirds of the city's population is back and parts of the city remain in ruins more than two years after the storm. However, New Orleans already has been the site of several major sporting and cultural events since Katrina devastated the city in August 2005. In addition to annual Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest celebrations, the city has hosted this year's Sugar Bowl and college football's national championship game.
Doug Thornton, vice president of the company that manages the Louisiana Superdome, said a successful All-Star weekend should ease any lingering concerns by event organizers about violent crime rates and a slow storm recovery in New Orleans.
``This was a test for us in many ways,'' Thornton said, ``and I think we passed the test.''
Shinn also expects the All-Star game to give a boost to the hometown team, which ranks near the bottom of the league in average attendance despite having the best record in the Western Conference halfway through the regular season.
``I think it's going to put the focus on the round ball instead of the oblong ball for a while,'' said Shinn, whose club has struggled to match the popularity of the NFL's New Orleans Saints.
Of the 98 arrests reported by police Friday through early Monday, 43 were on felony charges, 40 were ``municipal arrests'' and 15 were for traffic offenses, according to Police Superintendent Warren Riley.
``We know one blemish can destroy the reputation of us as being a host for major events, so we take it very, very seriously,'' Riley said.
Around 1:15 a.m. Monday, a Florida teenager and two 24-year-old women were hit in the legs by gunfire in the French Quarter. All three were treated for minor injuries and released from the hospital later Monday. No suspects were immediately identified.
``It was not related to any NBA activity or anything,'' Riley said.
With the All-Star game in the books, a push for a Final Four could be next. Thornton said the NCAA has invited New Orleans to submit a bid to host one of college basketball's championships between 2012 and 2016. Bids are due in early June, he said.
``I think the city has answered all the questions that may have existed for those who had suspicions we couldn't handle those activities,'' Thornton said.