When the “M” from the Gold Medal Park sign went missing this weekend, some speculated it had been stolen by rowdy basketball fans.
The 3-foot stainless-steel letter had mysteriously disappeared Saturday night, shortly after Texas Tech defeated Michigan State in the semifinal round of the Final Four.
“Fortunately, they didn’t take it,” said Luther Hochradel, general manager of Windsor Cos., which manages the downtown park. “They just busted it off.”
Vandals appear to have stood on the letter and pulled like crazy, he said. Eventually, the welded bottom broke free.
Maybe the “M” was too bulky to cart off — it weighs between 50 and 70 pounds. So the culprits left it lying in the grass near the Guthrie Theater and the Mississippi River.
City Council Member Steve Fletcher noticed the absent “M” Monday night while walking his dog. He quipped on Twitter that visitors were to blame: “Whoever took our ‘M,’ please return it to Gold Medal Park on your way out of town.”
Fletcher called the Final Four a very positive experience but said no one wants to see property damage.
“We’ll just get the ‘M’ fixed and move on,” he said Tuesday.
Four days of partying did not cause any serious public-safety incidents downtown. That’s a testament, Fletcher says, to his theory that if “we make downtown fun … it’s harder to commit crimes and safer for everybody.”
This isn’t the first time letters from the sign have been targeted. In 2011, thieves nabbed the “O” before it was eventually recovered. A “D” also disappeared earlier that year. The injured “M” is expected to rejoin its teammates within two weeks.
“It’s just one of those things,” Hochradel said. “We just try to get it repaired and make everything look beautiful again.”