In 2014 the Gus Macker Tournament moved from downtown Buffalo to Darien Lake. After years of being a heralded athletic event in the city, many are left scratching their heads as to how this all happened.
Now the plug has been pulled on the Darien Lake tournament, leaving fans to wonder what on earth happened to the once popular WNY tournament. Lack of sponsors. Escalating security costs. In a city like Buffalo, that benefitted tremendously from hosting the event, it is a wonder why local corporations and/or the City itself has not stepped up to create a game plan that would bring the tournament back to Niagara Square.
A BRO reader, BF, sent along the following commentary that shows his personal anguish pertaining to what he considers is a dropped ball on the behalf of the City of Buffalo:
“Gus Macker in Buffalo has had 20+ years of successful tournaments. I base this on the amount of teams historically that register to play, the spectators that come out each year to watch, the surrounding businesses that see a spike in sales each time Gus come to town.
“This event has been one of the city’s most anticipated of the summer for over 2 decades.
“Last year, it was moved from the city to Darien Lake, an idea that was doomed from the start. I honestly can’t believe that the Buffalo PAL (Police Athletic League) thought that was a good idea. Attendance plummeted as people from WNY aren’t going to travel to Darien to play basketball. Did Modie Cox think that was going to be successful solution for the future? The tournament was thriving in his city for years. Not surprisingly, the theme park declined to host the tourney a 2nd year.
“The main (stated) reason for the tourney not being held in Buffalo is lack of sponsorship. I question how much work organizers have done in obtaining new sponsors. Since Terrance McGee left, nobody else can be found that will step up for this cause? Are there other reasons that organizers or the Mayor are reluctant to disclose?
“A lot of anonymous comments online try to infer that there is too much trouble at the tourney, play gets rough, and it brings out a lot of unsavory people to one concentrated area, which is a safety concern. I would argue that crime and bad things have been proven to happen anywhere. It is no excuse to cancel an event so many people (of all races, sexes, ages, etc.) look forward to each year. If the Buffalo PAL doesn’t feel it can effectively organize and control the tournament, they should let some other entity run it, and that entity can hire private security, and then PAL won’t have to worry about the work involved or if not enough money for their liking is raised. It doesn’t seem logical that Gus Macker works in Jamestown, Cicero, Olean, Palmyra, and for 20 some years it worked here in our city, but now it can’t? That thought is narrow minded and lazy, at best.
“Anyone who did come forward to sponsor, to me, would be seen as a hero in the community. This tournament means a lot to children, adults, the inner city, the suburbs, etc. It is an event that brings people all over WNY together to celebrate basketball. Why won’t organizers bring it back where it belongs?
“The fee for a team to enter the tourney in 2013 was around $100. With the high participation rate Buffalo continually saw, at that rate per team, how much additional resources are honestly needed? I find it hard to believe that no other individual, business, or entity has stepped in to help, since it seems like a great opportunity for a company or individual to leave a lasting impression on our community, strengthen brand recognition, create goodwill, etc.
“Macker reps have repeatedly stated that they want to work with Buffalo, that Buffalo has been great to Gus Macker. If Gus Macker wants to be in Buffalo, and people of WNY have shown since the early 90’s there is more than enough participation, what or who is stopping the event, and why?”