GOACC calls for community support as it takes over Gus Macker

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OLEAN — The Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament is coming back for another August in Olean. But much like last year, officials in charge are not sure of the event’s fate.

That, they said, is in the hands of the public.

The Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce has donned the mantle of responsibility for 2017, passed to it from Olean City School District Foundation and the Olean Sports Boosters. The event is set for Aug. 18 to 20, with chamber officials estimating the sign-up of 300 teams with a total of 1,200 players, in turn generating anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 spectators from a 100-mile radius.

Meme Yanetsko, GOACC chief operating officer, said the chamber has already covered the payment on the $10,000 franchise fee with corporate sponsor dollars. Now the goal is getting businesses and individuals to work the tournament, feed those working the tournament and feed or entertain those attending.

Yanetsko is looking for ground-level support, meaning donations of gift certificates, water, sports drinks and food for volunteers. They are even accepting these items as in-kind trades to be considered for a sponsorship, of which the minimum is a $3,000 investment.

But one of the bigger donations is that of time. Yanetsko said volunteers are crucial — just to stock each available court with a referee, timekeeper and scorekeeper, 78 individuals must step in. And that’s not including those needed to help set up, run the weekend of events and then tear it all down.

Larry Sorokes, president of Olean Business Development and CEO of the chamber, said with the big monetary concerns gone, the crux of the Macker’s success depend on the community’s willingness to engage. He said there was enough community feedback to support the up-front investment, but the amount of local support — including volunteer numbers and donation amounts — will clue the chamber and OBD in on whether the basketball tournament sees next year.

“We’ve signed on for one time, and we’ll see how it goes, because we really are going to need a lot of help,” he said.

Of course, the need for volunteers has always been a part of the hoops tourney — the biggest change to the event is its function as a fundraiser. Despite most Macker tournaments around the country working as charity events, chamber officials said the goal is simply to break even.

Yanetsko said she helped host the Macker its first six years. In the tournament’s first three years, she said, it raised about $20,000 annually, which was split between the two groups. But even in the following three years, the overall take-in dropped off to an average of $8,000 a year, she added.

Yanetsko said she didn’t know the fundraising numbers from the event’s last few years, but Dave Carucci, the former Olean mayor and Olean City School District Foundation board member who helped organize the Gus Macker tournament after helping bring it to the city, said the street hoops tourney became “just too much work to make less money than what we thought we should make with it.”

“In a small community, it was getting harder to go to the same well to raise the same amount of money, and volunteers were getting tougher to get because everyone has a busy schedule,” he said.

Carucci, who said he is working on the Macker as part of the chamber’s internal event committee, added the tourney serving purely as a community event is “a whole different scenario.”

He said it was “fantastic” that the event could remain in the city, especially because of its economic function. Carucci reiterated previous statements that the Macker brings in 1 percent of the city’s annual revenue, which he said was calculated during his time in Olean’s mayoral office.

Sorokes added supporting events like this add a long-term economic boost by encouraging successful people to stay and grow the area.

“The ability to attract and retain a strong, talented workforce is absolutely critical. We’ll never get more business if we don’t have that,” he said. “So providing them with a community they want to live in is very important. Now, no single thing is going to change that — like the Gus Macker — but it’s a combination of all of those things that will make that part of why we are proud to live in Olean.”

To inquire about filling a concession booth or vendor spot at the tournament, call the chamber at 372-4433 or email info@oleanny.com.

(Contact City Editor Danielle Gamble at dgamble@oleantimesherald.com.)

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