If you need a hotel room on May 17 through 19, you better book it now, because that's when the third annual Gus Macker Tournament is being held at Betts Park.
Melissa Anderson, director of chamber operations at the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry, said last week, "You couldn't get a room last year" during the tournament.
The number of teams participating grew from 175 the first year to around 200 last year, and the WCCBI is expecting 225 or so this year. She said last year people came from New York, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and even Canada. "It is a great exposure for the community," she said. The Warren County Special Olympics will field teams again this year.
Each game is three-on-three, although all teams are composed of four players, so substitutions can be made during play. That means 900 total players spending money in Warren, plus family and friends who come to watch.
Mike Fuller, director of sales for Macker Basketball, was in Warren on last week. He said, "We are a family event; anyone can play because we break it down to age and ability."
Warren County Council on Tourism Executive Director John Papalia Jr. said, "Teams are about 5050, for youth and adult."
He added "The Allegheny Burger Festival is a great tie-in, as the tournament provides a built-in crowd. Once they (players and spectators) get here, they tend to stay all day. Having something to do in between games, like having a burger, resting in the shade, and watching other games brought great feedback last year."
Anderson added, "We also received favorable comments about the greenspace (at Betts)."
"The first year was a great learning experience, as the festival and the tournament were spread at opposite ends of the park. Merging them to the same end was a great move. We didn't play Neighborhood Rules, with a referee at each game, just court monitors that didn't call fouls. The second year, we used Gus Busters (referees) on every court, who will call fouls and violations on the youth courts," Papalia said.
Fuller added, "For a kinder, gentler Gus Macker."
The WCCBI works closely with Friends of Warren Basketball, which generate and distribute posters and flyers, recruit volunteers, referees and have contacts in the local basketball world.
Anderson said, "Volunteers make or break events like this. They are huge, huge, huge. They are instrumental in checking in the hundreds of players, scoring, running water to participants, collecting trash, and the many other things that make this a success."
In addition to the WCCBI, local sponsors include the Council on Tourism, Star 104, 92 Gold WRRN, WNAE, WKNB Kinzua Country, Times Observer, Kwik Fill, Northwest Savings Bank, Warren General Hospital, and others. TOPS Markets is a regional sponsor of tournaments in five New York cities, as well as Warren. Volunteers and sponsors are welcomed up to the last minute
Teams entering are guaranteed at least three games, and one team in each bracket will receive a Sportsmanship Award. If a team should lose the first two games, they will play in the "Toilet Bowl," and the winning teams will receive a trophy with a miniature toilet bowl mounted.
The entry fee is $124 per team, and registration can be done online at warrenmacker.com, no later than April 29, or by mail postmarked no later than April 26. Forms may be downloaded from the same website.
Fuller said it will have a great impact on local hotels, gas stations, bars, restaurants and other businesses.
Anderson said, "Every player will be asked to wear a wristband for the duration of the tournament to facilitate identification of players at the courts, and also because local business will be asked to offer discounts." She said she expects to have participating vendors locked in by May 1.
The portion of funds received by WCCBI and FWB will be funneled back into basketball programs and efforts to promote area tourism.
Papalia said when Jamestown, N.Y., stopped holding the Macker tournament, he immediately went after it for Warren.
Fuller added, "And you jumped on it."