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Gus Macker Tournament set to make grand return

Welcome back Gus Macker.

The 3-on-3 outdoor basketball tournament makes its grand return to Western New York at its new Grand Island home Aug. 29-30.

Gus Macker owner Scott McNeal along with event promoter Corey McGowan made the official announcement late Thursday morning that the two sides have struck a three-year deal to continue running the event that's been a staple of Western New York for 25 years more than a month after Macker officials said there would not be a Macker in the Buffalo-area this summer.

That didn’t sit well with McGowan, who used to watch his brother participate in the Macker in downtown back in the day. He immediately contacted Macker brass and began talks with McNeal.

While McGowan’s company, Corey McGowan Productions, has an opt out clause after one year, both sides sounded like they would be working together for better or worse for the long haul.

“We’re excited to be home,” said McNeal. “A couple months ago, this would’ve surprised myself.

“This is like a breth of fresh air. Finding Corey was a big deal.”

McGowan, 26, is a graduate of Grand Island High School and Buffalo State. His production group founded the Taste of Grand Island and also organizes the Taste of Niagara Falls and Concert for a Cure at Canalside.

“Just the history of this being in Western New York … to see something this powerful and meaningful to the community go away just wasn’t an option,” said McGowan as to why he stepped up to take control of the event.

The tournament will take place along a stretch of Grand Island Boulevard between Whitehaven and Baseline roads. The Town Hall parking lot will serve as a main hub where the championship and dream courts will be set up. There will also be an area for concessions.

The tournament will be set up to accommodate between 400-500 teams. Cost per four-man team is $140.

Organizers don’t want to push it beyond the 500 threshold in its first year at Grand Island.

The tournament returns to Erie County after a one-year stint in the sticks. Last year, organizers opted to move the event to Darien Lake because the event that had served as a fundraiser for the Buffalo Police Athletic League had become too cost prohibitive for the PAL, which had lost its primary sponsor for the event. In came Darien Lake to save the day, opening its spacious parking lot and funding most of the event with PAL providing assistance and receiving the proceeds.

However, Darien Lake changed its management team late fall and the sides opted to sever ties. There was chattered Buffalo PAL, which is not involved with the Macker this time around, was working behind the scenes looking to find a sponsor to keep the event, but McGowan beat them to the punch.

Last year’s event drew about 400 teams but the late start and being in an area not accessible by public transportation were among the reasons for the poor turnout.

While Grand Island is no downtown Buffalo, it is in Erie County and the tournament will be accessible by NFTA Metro bus route. Organizers hope that draws city youths without private transportation to the event.

McGowan said proceeds from the tournament will benefit the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo and Youth Advantage.

There are 44 Gus Macker Tournaments across the country each year. McNeal has run more than 1,700 during during his 42-year tenure.

McGowan said he considered Buffalo but opted for his hometown for a simple reason.

"I just personally like Grand Island," he said. "The community means a lot to me. To bring an event like this to Grand Island gives the opportunity to showcase all we have to offer as a community."

McGowan said he has the support of Grand Island officials and said town police and the Erie County Sheriff along with other businesses.

"We love the Buffalo area and appreciate all the people who put on the event in Buffalo. Everyone who's hosted us over the years we have no ill feelings. ... But we needed a long-term relationship so that people and players know where we'll be."

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