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Blackout halts 'Lame for a Game'

By Bryan Rosenbaum
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 2, 1999
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Eric M. Jukelevics
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Freshman forward Richard Jefferson (44) and freshman guard Julie Brase (20) talk to fans who rushed the floor after the lights went out at the McKale Center last night during Lame for a Game. Fans were safely evacuated after the power went out in the middle of the second half.

When the power shut off at McKale Center last night, it seemed like an April Fools' Day prank.

But after the crowd sat in complete darkness for half-an-hour instead of watching the University of Arizona's annual Lame for a Game wheelchair basketball event, people began to realize the outage was no joke.

"This is the craziest thing I've ever seen happen, and I've been to a lot of arenas," said Denise Dove, the UA women's assistant coach. "Fortunately, the crowd cooperated and didn't rush the floor, or things could have gotten ugly."

As UA Wildchair player Dave Kinsey brought the ball upcourt at about 8:05, the lights went out at McKale. The 16th annual game between UA basketball team members and the Wildchairs ended in darkness midway through the second half.

"This is unbelievable," junior forward Eugene Edgerson said. "Who would have thought the lights would go out during a wheelchair basketball game at McKale Center? It doesn't even rain here that much this time of year."

With only two television cameras and the rear lights of an ambulance providing light, players, cheerleaders and fans danced on the court while event staff and police tried to decipher the problem.

"We've just called an emergency crew to come down and help out," said University of Arizona Police officer Don Buotte. "We're just trying to get everybody out of here safely."

About 4,000 people attended the fundraiser for the UA wheelchair teams and the Center for Disability Related Resources.

"We evacuated McKale safely," said UAPD Chief Harry Hueston. "We're still in the process of figuring out what caused the power to go out."

Dove sent some of the players home before the crowd was evacuated, giving them a head start. The arena was empty by 9:15.

A number of other campus buildings also lost power, including the Optical Sciences building, Mirror Laboratory, La Paz Residence Hall and the Student Recreation Center.

As power was restored at 10:10 p.m. to La Paz, Hall Director Marc Colb said his resident assistants were monitoring the dorm and checking on the students.

"Most residents were out in the hallways reading and socializing," Colb said. "The halls were well-lit (with emergency lights)."

La Paz resident Brandie Conner was wrapped in an orange quilt as she talked to her friend in the dorm's lobby. When the power went out, Conner said she was in the shower.

But Conner, a UA junior, said the blackout didn't bother her.

"For some bizarre reason, I have no homework and the shows on NBC are repeats, so it's the perfect night for a power outage," she said.

Hueston said the UA Main Library has an uninterrupted power source that kept the building's electricity running. He was unsure why the back-up system did not work in the other buildings, especially McKale Center.