McGowan: Go big or go home
By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
A possible second edition of the Gus Macker 3-on-3 Tournament may tip off on Grand Island Boulevard in June.
The Grand Island Town Board will consider a proposal by Gus Macker event promoter Corey McGowan to hold the tournament June 11 and 12. McGowan met with the Town Board Tuesday in a workshop meeting to discuss his plans for the Macker, as well as his other events for 2016. He asked for support from the board for the Gus Macker, which would take place on the same footprint along Grand Island Boulevard as last year.
McGowan said the 2016 team limit will be 350 teams; the tourney had 278 taking part last year.
Because it was held in late August, the 2015 Macker missed teams of players who had gone back to college and those who were playing high school football, but McGowan said participation was also held down because "uncertainty swirled around last year" about whether the tourney would even take place.
Board members were in support of holding the tourney the second time around. Town Supervisor Nate McMurray said he would put the Gus Macker tournament on Monday's Town Board agenda.
"Corey, I like the fact that you're growing as a businessperson," McMurray told McGowan. "Every year you're adding something. It's cool. And I also like the fact that you bring a lot of attention to Grand Island."
Council members did their due diligence in asking McGowan for details about the tourney, such as costs to the town. McGowan invested about $14,000 in the 2015 event.
Councilman Ray Billica said the town's only cost during the tourney was for Grand Island Police, and added McGowan provides a service the town doesn't fund in its own budget.
Billica said, "I believe Corey has taken over a decent amount of our recreational opportunities for the people of Grand Island not being put on by our Recreation Department."
Barricades and garbage cans at large public events are minor costs to the town, Billica said, though adding the town should be reimbursed for extra police and code enforcement costs. McMurray concurred, but preferred to have an agreement in writing that delineated de minimis costs to the town and those that McGowan should cover.
"I think it protects him as well," Councilwoman Bev Kinney said of an agreement with McGowan.
A major hurdle to overcome in holding the 2015 Macker was the security fears of residents. McGowan said he went to Michigan for a two-day conference attended by promoters of Mackers in 20 different cities where a Macker was held. None of the other Mackers had as much security as the Grand Island event he said, calling it "major overkill," and he said he would change the security force from 15 off-duty police officers to 10 security guards and five off-duty police.
One addition McGowan will seek is involvement of the Grand Island Fire Co.
"I strongly think that the Grand Island Fire Co. should be the standby to supply the med tent at the Gus Macker. I think it's a community event that's right in front of their house," McGowan said.
Billica said the fire company worried about coverage for the rest of the Island during the Macker last year.
McGowan will hold an informational meeting Feb. 15 at Mallwitz Island Lanes on Whitehaven Road at 7 p.m.
"After a wonderful 2015 year of events, I am looking forward to an even bigger, better and more exciting year for 2016 and look forward to sharing all plans with you in more detail," McGowan wrote in an email invitation.
Though McMurray sounded positive about the Macker, he admitted he was "scared" about a new proposal from McGowan of which the board learned details for the first time: Slide the City.
Slide the City, a national company, would present an event "potentially bigger than Gus Macker," McMurray said. The event would follow the same format as the Macker, though adding beer and wine concessions and vendors as supplemental attractions to the main attraction: a 1,000-foot inflatable slide, like a backyard slip-and-slide.
The event would take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 30, on Grand Island Boulevard.
"This is spring break," McMurray said in describing it. It could be marketed to young college-aged men. Patrons would need to pre-register to attend.
"Wow, this thing is big. That is wild," said Councilman Mike Madigan as he looked at the Slide the City website on his smartphone.
How big? Billica told the board from the parking lot at the Grand Island Memorial Library west in Veterans Park to the fields is 1,000 feet.
McMurray asked if "there be a revulsion" and backlash from residents.
Madigan wondered if it wouldn't be better to hold the event at Beaver Island, with more room and less congestion. McGowan responded that though he understands opposition to holding street festivals, he added: "For what I'm doing, what I'm trying to do, I'm just not interested in other than a street festival only because of my goals."
McMurray was confident in the Macker, but said Slide the City "could be a real disaster."
Taste of Grand Island
The Taste of Grand Island is planned for Sept. 24. McGowan called it "exactly what you've seen in the past four years." The last two years, the event has taken place on Whitehaven Road. The board had a meeting Thursday as the Dispatch went to press with Ross Kaiser of Kaiser Funeral Home on Whitehaven Road.
McGowan hoped Kaiser is on board with the plan.
"If not, we'll look back at Grand Island Boulevard," McGowan said.
"Again, street festivals to me are the way to do it. Go big or go home," McGowan said.
•McGowan said music nights this year would run monthly rather than weekly as in the past. He added he is purchasing a 30-by-50 inflatable house that looks like an Irish pub, tentatively called The Flying Bison Beer House. Music nights would run on Fridays from 6 to 11 p.m. for music night, with alcohol. He estimated 125-150 people attended music nights, and 50 people attended Saturday night movies from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Both events take place in the Town Commons.