Chapel Hill prepares for national championship

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Top of the Hill on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill

Carolina pride is at a fever pitch ahead of the NCAA championship game. Chapel Hill stores have been inundated with fans looking for UNC gear and dozens of students are camping outside of the Top of the Hill to learn if they won a coveted table at the popular Franklin Street restaurant.

"Hopefully, Franklin Street's pretty crowded, more crowded than we've ever seen it here for a Duke game," said student Jackson Somers.

Students started filing into line around 5:30 Sunday evening. They brought blankets, chairs, and snacks.



"We'll get a few hours of sleep tomorrow afternoon, maybe go to a class or two, and then be to watch the game," said Somers.

The students want to be high above Franklin Street if the team wins and there's a celebration below.

Some graduates are back in town to watch the game.

Tracey Melnick, who now lives in Washington D.C., plans on attending the school's watch party at the Dean Dome.

"Last year, I watched the championship game in there and it was fantastic," she explained. "There's nothing like a college town. You can't mimic this [energy] anywhere."

As Chapel Hill prepares for Monday's national championship, they want to remind residents that there will be an increase in patrols and community safety measures.

"We want everyone to be able to enjoy the Tar Heels' repeat trip to the Final Four, and the key to that is safety," said Chapel Hill Police Chief and Executive Director for Community Safety Chris Blue. "Our goals are simple: We want no one hurt and no damage to property. We're all pulling for a Tar Heel victory, and when that happens, we want everyone to be able to return home safely."

The Chapel Hill Police Department has reached out to more than a dozen law enforcement agencies from around the region for assistance. They said there will be 250 police officers working Monday to enforce safety measures.

A traffic diversion plan will be in effect and those going downtown should expect delays.

Officials said drivers should take note of these changes:

-Southbound traffic on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard will be only permitted to turn left or right onto Rosemary Street
-Westbound traffic on East Franklin Street will be merged into one lane prior to the intersection of East Franklin Street at Raleigh Street
-Eastbound traffic on West Franklin Street will be merged into one lane prior to Mallette Street
-Northbound traffic on South Columbia Street will only be permitted to turn right or left onto Cameron Avenue

If UNC wins, downtown streets may be closed to vehicles based on crowd size and behavior.

If streets are closed, no vehicular traffic will be allowed inside the closed area.

Closures may include the following:

-Franklin Street - from Raleigh Street to Mallette Street
-Henderson Street - from East Franklin Street to East Rosemary Street
-Columbia Street - from Cameron Avenue to Rosemary Street

Residential streets near downtown will be closed except to residents of those streets and their guests.

The Town of Chapel Hill said they will make every effort to keep people who are attending the event from parking in downtown neighborhoods. Access to neighborhoods in that area will be limited.

Authorities said barricades will begin in the early evening. They said when entering or leaving the area, residents should do the following:

-Tell the officer at the barricade where you live
-Your guests will also be able to enter and leave. They will need to tell the officer at the barricade exactly where they are going
-Illegally parked vehicles (even of residents, guests) will be ticketed and towed
-Traffic will be congested and getting past the barricades may be a slow process

Alcohol checkpoints will be in place, and DWI enforcement will take place throughout downtown.

Authorities want to remind residents that celebratory bonfires and people climbing on or up light poles and trees will not be tolerated.

Attendees have sustained serious burn injuries from jumping bonfires and major injuries have occurred when celebrants have fallen off of light poles. These practices are prohibited at all times downtown.

Police want to remind residents that weapons, alcoholic beverages, glass bottles, paint, fireworks and explosives, combustible or flammable substances, animals, and coolers are prohibited downtown.

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