BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – When news spread that the popular Gus Macker basketball tournament would not be held in Buffalo this year, a lot of people were disappointed. Many teens in the city don’t have anyone to drive them to the new location at Darien Lake.
However, it was recently announced that there will be four buses available for people who don’t have a ride to Darien Lake. Arrangements were made possible by an inner-city church pastor who wanted to make sure the youth of the city still have a chance to participate in this popular annual event.
“I was very disappointed when Gus Macker could no longer really happen in the City of Buffalo,” said Buffalo Council Member Darius Pridgen. That disappointment fueled Pridgen to take action to make sure residents, especially kids, in his district weren’t left out of the Gus Macker basketball tournament.
They came to him needing help. “I was approached by so many people who they do not have vehicles in their households or a way to get out there.” Pridgen knew if he could find a way for the players to get to Darien Lake they would want to participate. “Initially we thought we might have to involve some City money, but the church today raised a few thousand dollars in order to just pay for the buses to get them out on both days,” said Pridgen.
At this point four full-sized buses will ship players to and from the two-day tournament. All of the funding comes from True Bethel Baptist Church where Pridgen is the pastor. “I’m thankful for that because our commitment to the inner-city and to the youth is really what we’re about, so we’ll have the funding to do that.”
Pridgen hopes more kids will sign up now especially those discouraged because they didn’t have a ride. “Some of the kids in church were really excited because they don’t have the transportation and so we thought it was important and we might even send a church team out there to participate because I just think it’s so important for people to live together and play together.”
In its first year outside of the City of Buffalo, Pridgen hopes his efforts will mean no one is left out. “This was one of the only events in the City of Buffalo and Western New York in which black, white, young, old, just a huge demographic of people played together in a very peaceful atmosphere. So I thought it was very important that at least that aspect continued.”
The annual three-on-three tournament will be held at Darien Lake on July 19 and July 20. The Gus Macker attracted thousands of players and nearly 50,000 spectators to downtown Buffalo in previous years.