Gus Macker gives local economy a healthy bounce

The 17th annual Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament will bring thousands of players and fans from across the state – and the northeast – into the city, as it does each and every year. Yet the popular event also brings something else: an invaluable economic boost for local businesses.

While an exact dollar amount is impossible to determine, said Norwich Business Improvement District Director Roz DeRensis, the effect Gus Macker has on the local economy is substantial.

“The impact is tremendous,” she added. “Not only does it showcase the best Norwich has to offer, but it also brings hundreds of players and fans into our downtown area. It has a huge charitable component, as well. The businesses in our downtown area deserve this annual event ... it helps out everyone, from big store to small, especially with the current economic environment.”

Gus Macker, said DeRensis, has proven to be recession resilient, and one “can’t deny” the positive impact it has. Players and fans stay at area hotels, eat at local restaurants and shop in downtown stores.

“It truly benefits everyone,” she added. “It’s an important part of the culture of Norwich and having this as an annual event is great. It brings people into our downtown district, it promotes physical activity and sports and more importantly, people have fun while doing it.”

Norwich Merchants Association President Anna McLaughlin agreed, citing the “terrific job” the Norwich Family Y, its staff and a dedicated group of volunteers do every year when Gus Macker rolls into town.

“Hard numbers change every year but there is definitely a boost to business,” she added. “Some of the businesses downtown open extra hours ... some participate in the wrist band special. Either way, it helps to bring people into the stores. The foot traffic increases and while it might not result in a sale that day, shoppers usually come back for something they have seen over the weekend.”

It’s McLaughlin’s opinion that the sheer number of people Gus Macker brings to the city are what truly drives up sales, with players traversing downtown between games and families flooding the city to cheer on their favorite team. It is, she added, a real boost to the downtown economy.

“I feel that it truly benefits the entire community,” said McLaughlin. “It’s a lot of work for the Y and it’s also a lot of work for the business community, but the benefits are definitely worth the effort.”

Commerce Chenango President Steve Craig pointed out the restaurants located downtown and the increase in business Gus Macker brings through their doors year after year.

“It’s terrific,” he added. “I can’t think of a better downtown event ... there are a lot of kids and a lot of adults, players, families and fans and they get hungry. There are a lot of opportunities there for our downtown restaurants and I think it’s something they look forward to every year.”

At the Howard Johnson Hotel, there’s not a room to be had – something that only happens a handful of times a year. Dana Meyer, general manager at the downtown hotel, said she typically sells out for Gus Macker. And unlike some hotels out there, she refuses to raise her rates.

“We don’t raise our rates and we try to keep them reasonable so these families can travel here and have a place to stay,” she added. “I’ve been here for five years and every year, we’ve sold out for Gus Macker. It’s very busy but it’s also a lot of fun as well.”

Added DeRensis, “It’s amazing, really, at a time when hotels are trying to fill rooms, businesses are struggling, a sporting event such as the Gus Macker Tournament brings players and fans that stay in those hotels, eat at those restaurants, buy gas and shop locally. It truly benefits everyone.”

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