Each summer, hundreds of fans pack into Villa Maria College on Thursday and Sunday nights to catch a glimpse of Western New York’s premier summer basketball league, Queen City Classic. It prides itself on having a flair for family fun, including a DJ, contests and special guests.
But this season, $4,000 in missing uniforms has cast a shadow over the league.
Organizers of Queen City Classic allege that the uniform supplier, Amherst-based Apex Athletic Wear Unlimited, took their money, never sent the jerseys and has yet to follow through on a refund.
“This hiccup has really set us back,” said Lindsey Taylor, founder and commissioner of the league, which started play on June 26. “I feel personally hurt because it doesn’t just affect me, it affects our 144 players, it affects the families who come out here, it affects our community.”
He said there’s a devastating ripple effect from something so simple. No uniforms means players have to wear their own drab gym clothes, which means it’s more of a challenge for fans to root for a team, which means there’s less excitement from fans, which means it’s harder to turn a profit.
This also has happened at a time when Queen City Classic has reached new levels of recognition, with an NCAA certification under its belt. It’s now the only summer league in Western New York that can say that, and one of 20 to 30 in the country.
Taylor is worried that having no uniforms will make the teams look less professional and make people think twice about coming back to games in the future.
“People pay $700 to be part of a team, and more than half of that goes to uniforms,” he said. “So when people come back, they may not be so quick to spend money because of this year.”
The league has filed a small claims lawsuit against Apex Athletic Wear Unlimited to “cover our back,” he said. Organizers have kept records of their interactions with the company, from the date they made their first deposit to the last time they spoke.
Herman Wooten II, owner of Apex Athletic Wear Unlimited, said the company is “working on it” and will provide the refund by Friday.