By Jason Wesseldyk
Since first being held in downtown Otsego in 2015, the Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament has become one of biggest events hosted in the city, drawing an average of 8,000 to 10,000 visitors each year.
And such a big undertaking wouldn’t be possible without students and staff members from Otsego Public Schools donating their time to volunteer, according to event co-chair Scot Reitenour.
“The success of the Gus Macker Tournament is completely dependent on the student and staff volunteers from the school,” he said. “This tournament not only allows opportunities for the academic and sports programs to earn money, but it also provides our juniors and seniors the ability to meet their community service hour requirements for graduation.
“I also want to mention that the school provides all the tables that we use for registration, Threads by Gus, brackets and for our score keepers at each court. So, as you can see, the school’s participation helps to make the tournament a success.”
In recognition of the work done by OPS students and staff, the Macker committee donates proceeds from the event to various organizations and sports programs in the district.
This year, a total of $3,400 to the middle school girls basketball program, the FIRST robotics team, the high school boys basketball program, the Otsego High School student council and National Honor Society.
In all, $16,000 has been donated to district programs and organizations from the seven Macker tournaments that have taken place in Otsego.
“The programs that benefit are the ones who help out with our volunteer needs during that year’s Macker,” Reitenour said. “Based upon the number of volunteer hours, they’ll receive a portion of the proceeds.”
Setting up for the Macker starts the Thursday before the tournament, with work including setting up the hoops and taping the courts. Registration packets can be picked up starting Friday afternoon, with the annual charity tournament taking place Friday evening.
The tournament itself begins at 8:30 a.m. Friday morning and wraps up Sunday afternoon. Then comes the process of breaking down the hoops and getting the streets back to normal.
“Our goal is to leave the streets cleaner than when we started,” Reitenour said.
Hosting the Macker costs approximately $73,000 per year, with those funds coming from sponsorships and team registrations. Money that is secured beyond those costs is donated back to OPS.
“Along with the school, we have a great relationship with local businesses as well as the city.” Reitenour said. “The city helps us with the coordination with residents along the streets that are affected by us setting up and blocking off the streets around City Hall.
“We partner with Bronson Sports Medicine and they provide on-site medical staff for the weekend. The Otsego Police Department also provides additional officers and the Otsego Fire Department staffs up for the weekend and they allow us to occupy their back parking lot for our Kid’s Kourt. It is a great opportunity for our community and our visitors to interact with all of these amazing departments.”
And with a new three-year contract being signed with the Gus Macker organization, Otsego will host a tournament through at least 2025.
“Our committee is excited to continue to bring an awesome family-oriented event to downtown Otsego,” Reitenour said. “The tournament has such a positive financial impact on our downtown businesses with many of them sharing that the tournament weekend is their biggest weekend of the year.”
Reitenour knows OPS students and staff will continue to play a vital role in keeping the tournament going strong.
“Every year we need to find better ways to promote the event to secure the number of volunteers required,” he said. “Student and staff are already very busy so we feel incredibly fortunate when we start to see our volunteer slots on Signup Genius filling up.
“During August students are back in sports and teachers and other staff members are preparing for the new school year so for them to take time away from those activities. So, we are very thankful for them.”
By Jason Wesseldyk