Meridian officials look to bring tourism with Gus Macker tournament

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Gus Macker

Gus Macker

Gus Macker is a recognizable brand that draws large crowds. Image: Gus Macker.

A three-on-three basketball tournament coming to Meridian Mall in July will help bring in tourism dollars to Haslett.

The weekend tournament will take place as part of Meridian Township’s 175th anniversary celebration and could draw thousands of visitors to the area for the weekend. Participation is open to male and female teams of all ages.

Deborah Guthrie is the co-chair of the committee organizing the celebration.

“We expect to see around 200 to 300 teams compete,” Guthrie said. “We know it’s going to have a positive impact on the business community.”

With four players to a team, that impact could be sizable. There could be as many as 10 spectators for each team, said Gus Macker owner Scott McNeal.

“Being at a mall in the center of the state, turnout there should be pretty good,” McNeal said.

The tournament will be held the weekend of July 15 – peak season for large crowds, McNeal said. With 250 teams competing, he predicts 5,000 to 10,000 people will attend the festivities. Many of those people may choose to spend the night at a nearby hotel.

“I think it’ll be overwhelmingly positive,” said Meridian Mall General Manager Todd Huhn.

Huhn believes the air conditioning and a chance to rest will draw much of the crowd into the mall, where they may help boost businesses.

The typical setup for tournaments held in an urban setting. Image: Scott McNeal.

Scott McNeal

The typical setup for tournaments held in an urban setting. Image: Scott McNeal.

The event has become more family-oriented in recent years, McNeal said. Participants are getting younger, and they usually bring along friends and family.

Some years ago, an Indiana tourism bureau conducted an economic impact study of a Gus Macker tournament. The numbers are old and may be outdated, McNeal said.

The study assumed a traveler spends $35 each day while visiting, and $75 if they spend the night. That would project local businesses to take in at least $175,000 over the course of the tournament.

Tournament hosts must select a charity to receive the direct funds raised by the event. Meridian Township has selected the Haslett and Okemos athletic booster clubs, as well as Mankowski’s Christmas for Kids.

Retired police officer Gayelord Mankowski has organized a Christmas party for kids in need around the area for more than 27 years, said Guthrie. Funds raised from the tournament will help them purchase presents for next year’s celebration.

The tournament would not have happened without the support of local businesses – Meridian Mall in particular, Guthrie said. The mall has provided about $11,000 in financial support.

“It was a perfect opportunity for us to be a major player in the township’s 175th anniversary,” said Huhn.

The township has also received support from local banks, hotels, and grocery stores. Tournament participants will even receive some discounts at some of these businesses.

The township is still looking for more businesses to sponsor the tournament. Without more support, they will have to write a smaller check to those charities, Guthrie said.

“We help each other out, we raise each other up because this is who we are,” Guthrie said.

Started in 1987, Gus Macker tournaments are now held around the country. It hit its peak in the 1990s, drawing up to 2,000 teams in some cities. Lansing used to hold a tournament over Labor Day that drew similar crowds.

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