IF YOU WANT a fair and unbiased opinion about Gus Macker, stop reading. I am all about Gus, all the time. I have known Scott McNeal, the founder, for nearly 30 years. I have worked for him since 2004. I was the event manager this weekend in Quincy, and it was an exhausting but exhilarating weekend. Let's do it again!
Gus Macker works in Quincy because the Exchange Club does a fantastic job of organizing it. Washington Park is also the perfect hub for the tournament, and playing 3-on-3 basketball in the streets makes it more attractive for players and fans and gives it a really cool vibe.
However, this closes the streets for more than two days, on a busy holiday weekend, and there are some businesses in the square and downtown affected. Second String Music is open for the Gus Macker green room but never expects to do much business. We obviously love Gus Macker and are nuts enough to do this. Our regular customers couldn't reach us, there was no close parking and the streets are closed a solid block around us.
And that's OK. It's a part of being downtown. We deal with it three or four times a year.
After the tournament, we got some feedback about downtown not being a good location. There are some valid points being made. The District is getting more organized and becoming more vocal about downtown issues. They need to be addressed. Nothing changes without opening a conversation.
Here are few of my and Sheryl's thoughts on events downtown:
Do not move the Quincy Gus Macker to a parking lot. It will kill the tournament. I've worked hundreds of tournaments in six Midwest states. I can tell you the parking lot tournaments do not work, unless they are by a big stadium. Players hate them, parents hate them, and organizers like them at first because they are easier to manage, but they quickly realize the lack of shade and the bland environment are not good.
Moving the Quincy Gus Macker to the Quincy Mall is ludicrous, as is moving it to the Oakley Lindsay Center parking lot. Do you think the issues of crowd size, noise, lack of parking and trash will go away? It will double at those locations. The mall wouldn't be able to handle the crowds (everybody would come inside because there is no shade or cover from the rain), and hundreds of residents living within a few blocks of mall and OLC would throw fits.
One intriguing idea is to move it to Front Street by Clat Adams Park. This actually has merit. It might spark some new interest in a traditional event, and there is a lot of room, though you'd have to walk down a big hill after parking. You'd have to make sure the three restaurants down there are good with it, along with the Elks Lodge just up the hill from Chicks.
But anytime you move a tournament, you make changes, and people around here are hesitant when it comes to change. And the bottom line is that the Exchange Club would have to go along with it. This tournament won't work in Quincy any other way.
If we talk about moving Gus Macker, then I want to make sure we talk about moving the awful Dogwood Festival carnival (NOT the parade or the street party) from Fifth and Maine. We will gladly cancel "Carney Watch Happy Hour" the Friday they set up the rides.
Let's talk about a better location for the Tin Dusters event. That event is hit or miss for us at Second String Music, though it helps other downtown businesses. When you remove parking near any store, you remove customers.
Fifth street in particular seems to get closed down more often than other streets - parades, run/walk charity events, religious marches, tournaments, car shows, carnivals. You take the good with the bad when you have a business right at 5th & Maine.
When the streets don't close down, the park and downtown events seem to not bring any complaints from business owners. That is because their customers can still drive and park so that they don't feel inconvenienced by the event. Any event that uses the park like the Midsummer Arts Faire is awesome - the streets don't close, the park just actually gets used.
Gus Macker has worked in downtown Quincy for a long time, and I hope it stays in downtown Quincy for a lot longer.