NORWICH — The annual Norwich Gus Macker Tournament will be returning this weekend for their 25th anniversary after two years of postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although this year's event will look a bit different, it still promises to be the basketball tournament participants and fans know and love.
"It’s going to look different for sure and it may feel different for people because we’re not downtown. But I promise it's still going to be the same quality basketball tournament and the courts haven’t changed in size, it’s just a new location," said Gus Macker Tournament Director Tom Revoir.
Instead of setting up on East Main Street as they've done in the past, organizers have relocated the tournament to Midland Drive. The Gus Macker committee and city personnel have been working in tandem to coordinate everything from vendor sites to porta-johns.
"We’ve got a plan, we’re working with the PD and Emergency Management [Director Stephen] Cady, working on everything for the state for that. The mass gathering permit has been submitted, probably if there’s only 207 teams I don’t really know that we need it, but we’re still going to move forward like we do," said City of Norwich Fire Department Chief Jan Papelino.
"Steve [Cady] was working on an incident action plan for weather or if something happened. We got full use of the school for that, the gymnasium, the cafeteria, and if we need, they’d give them the cafeteria," he continued. "We got a traffic pattern worked out. We’ll be installing jersey barriers Friday morning, early so we can start setting up courts in the parking lot and all there."
Registration begins on Friday July 8 from 4 to 7 p.m. and Saturday, July 9 from 7 to 11 a.m. in the Norwich High School (NHS) gymnasium.
From there, 22 courts will be set up on Midland Drive near the Norwich Middle School and in the Norwich High School parking lot, and three-on-three basketball games will take place Saturday and Sunday.
Midland Drive from the District Office down to the high school will be closed to all vehicle traffic starting Friday at 8 a.m. until approximately 7 p.m. on Sunday. A curfew of 10 p.m. will be enforced for the area every night of the tournament.
"There is a curfew, no playing after the hours of 10 p.m., just because it's a residential area and not a commercial area. We’re trying to respect the people that live in the vicinity," explained Norwich Police Department Deputy Chief Scott Burlison. "We have to be fair to the community down on that end. People don't realize once it gets started and the regular street traffic gets started how much acoustics and noise affects people, and it's going to bounce off the school and back onto Birdsall and that whole neighborhood."
Additionally, several streets in the area will be designated as temporary no parking zones. Burlison said currently Westcott Street, Davis Street, York Street, Marconi Avenue, Burr Avenue, Taylor Street, and Grove Avenue to Maydole Street are designated as no parking zones for the tournament.
"There's plenty of parking in the surrounding area," Burlison said. "[Do not] plug up the side streets where people need to get out, some don't have sidewalks. There's plenty of parking within the vicinity at this venue."
However, he emphasized that logistics such as no parking areas are subject to change.
"This could very well change. The police department could make adjustments as needed as the event occurs, because it's the first year down there and you always have to work the kinks out of it," Burlison said.
According to Gus Macker organizers, parking areas have been designated in the Achieve parking lot on East Main Street, the Chenango County Fairgrounds, the Norwich High School baseball field parking lot, Golden Artist Colors on Hale Street, and the Chenango River Walk on Hale Street.
Food vendors will be set up along the driveway in front of the Norwich middle school, porta-johns can be found on Midland Drive adjacent to the Norwich high school, and a medical station will be set up in the NHS cafeteria.
Additionally, medical personnel will be present throughout all areas of the tournament to further ensure the safety of players and spectators.
"Hopefully it’ll be another good and successful event. The weather looks like it’s going to be perfect for it," Papelino said. "They sealed the whole parking lot down there this weekend. They’re going to wait to stripe it so the volunteers who come in and set the courts up will have a perfect black parking lot to put their stripes down for each one of the courts. Hopefully there will be a lot of good basketball and a good time."
While the return of Gus Macker won't look the same as its first 24 years in the area, Norwich Family YMCA Executive Director and CEO Jamey Mullen said it's been a supportive group effort between the Gus Macker committee, city departments, and volunteers from the community to bring it back just as great as fans remember.
"Everybody has been supportive: police, fire, the city, the Department of Public Works, the school district. Everybody has been very supportive of our efforts to bring the event back," said Mullen. "It’s an amazing community event that allows for anybody in the community to help out in some way, shape, or form."
"It’s an intense undertaking that a lot of folks don’t realize. But when you see the event working, we can’t do it without the volunteers, and we’re blessed to have some amazing volunteers in this community supporting this event."
More information on this year's Gus Macker Tournament can be found in The Evening Sun's annual special edition, "The Gusette," all weekend.
Copies will be available at the Gus Macker registration area in the Norwich High School, the Norwich Family YMCA, Byrne Dairy, Grand Union, Nina's Pizzeria, Tex Mex Express, Park Place Sports Bar and Grill, and many other locations.
Information can also be found at macker.com, the Gus Macker Basketball Norwich, New York Facebook page, and the Norwich Family YMCA Facebook page.