After a 14-year hiatus, the storied Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament is returning to Indianapolis.
This year’s event, played on courts situated by the intersection of West Michigan Street and King Avenue in the River West neighborhood, will take place July 29-30.
Dubbed the “Gus Macker River West Classic,” the tournament will donate all profits to three not-for-profit organizations serving the near-west side: Gleaners Food Bank, Christamore House, and Haughville Library.
With male and female divisions ranging from 10-and-under to 40-and-over, this year’s Indianapolis tournament is expected to draw up to 400 teams, event organizers said.
It’s difficult to say how much a new event could raise, but multiple sources said it’s not uncommon for a Macker event to generate $15,000 to $25,000 for charities in a local community.
Annual Gus Macker tournaments drew hundreds of teams and huge crowds in Indianapolis from the 1980s to the early 2000s, using Pan Am Plaza, IUPUI, White River State Park and the Indiana State Fairgrounds. It’s not clear why the event was discontinued locally
Founded in 1987, Gus Macker has expanded to hold a total of 972 tournaments nationwide with over 2.2 million players and more than 23 million spectators, according to the organization's website.
Near West 21, a River West not-for-profit focused on neighborhood cultural and economic development, will serve as the presenting sponsor of the local tournament this year.
The tournament has a few spots still available at the Official Sponsor level ($1,000) and is also seeking sponsors for both the Slam Dunk Contest ($4,000) and Three-Point Shootout ($2,000). Businesses interested in these or other sponsor opportunities should email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Local entrepreneur Jim Kinney gets much credit for bringing Macker back to Indy.
Several years ago, Kinney moved his IT consulting business, Kinney Group, to the near-west side of Indianapolis. Kinney quickly became involved with local neighborhood organizations shaping the development of the near-west side.
In 2015, Kinney founded Near West 21, a not-for-profit which provides cultural and economic development support to the near-west side, which has been re-branded River West as part of the Great Places 2020 initiative.
In early 2016, stakeholders in the neighborhood started discussing summer events that could engage the community and bring positive attention to the area. After working through a few options, a committee led by Near West 21 realized that a Gus Macker event would achieve these objectives, according to Greg Slisz, who works for Kinney Group.
“Not only did Gus Macker bring a fun, festival-style event that engaged all ages and abilities, but it also enabled the sponsoring entity to raise money for local community institutions,” Slisz said.
Mike Fuller, Macker’s vice president of sales and operations, came out for a site visit in November 2016 and determined that the stretch of West Michigan Street outside Kinney Group’s office would work as a tournament site. The deal to bring the Macker event back to Indianapolis for the first time since 2003 was signed early this year.
“The Gus Macker River West Classic is true to two of Indianapolis' oldest traditions: basketball and giving back,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said in a media statement. “Not only will this tournament serve as a few great days for the community to gather together, but the proceeds will benefit our young people and strengthen Indianapolis for years to come.”
All teams in a Gus Macker tournament are computer-matched into male and female divisions within one of the following categories: junior, adult, or top. The age, height and experience of all four players on a team are considered.
Teams receive at least three scheduled games. The double-elimination tournament includes a consolation bracket, the Toilet Bowl, for teams losing their first two games. In addition to the 3-on-3 games, the event will also feature a 3-point shootout and dunk contest.
The online registration deadline for the Indianapolis Gus Macker (click here for info) is July 10, while mail-in registrations are due July 7.