Happy Valley well positioned to capitalize on the youth sports industry

– by Fritz Smith

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Most likely, we all either have a family member or know someone who plays sports and travels for competitions. Youth sports is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry, according to Sports Destination Management.

The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau has prioritized more fully capitalizing on this premiere visitation segment, hiring a sports sales and marketing professional in 2020 to help achieve this goal. The HVAB is ensuring that our athletic facilities and the destination have national visibility on Play Easy Sports and other marketing platforms. Our own Sports Committee is fostering communication and coordination among community and university athletic interests. The HVAB works closely with our venues, tournament organizers, hotels and municipal officials to ensure positive tournament experiences and outcomes. The HVAB team both follows up on inquiries and works to generate new leads in order to bring youth sports activity to Happy Valley. Over the past year, we have seen a considerable uptick in interest in Centre County as a tournament destination. Finally, as a member of PA Sports, the HVAB helps to raise Pennsylvania’s visibility in this competitive market.

"The HVAB team both follows up on inquiries and works to generate new leads in order to bring youth sports activity to Happy Valley. Over the past year, we have seen a considerable uptick in interest in Centre County as a tournament destination."

Fritz Smith, President and CEO, The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau

The reason for this heightened attention is simple. The industry is an important economic driver, and we believe Happy Valley is well-positioned to become a “tournament town.”

Tournaments tend to have a high volume of visitors. Athletes, spectators and coaches spend money on meals, hotel rooms, attractions and shopping. As such, this market has tremendous potential to help the area recover from the pandemic and maintain consistent hotel occupancy levels during “need periods” such as holidays, weekends and off-peak months. This impact is already being realized. This past summer, the HVAB safely brought the American Junior Golf Association to Happy Valley for two, week-long tournaments. The July tournament alone generated 250 room nights at a time when our hotels - and restaurants – were desperate for business. The AJGA is now set to return this summer. Over the past several weeks, Nike-affiliated basketball tournaments have helped boost weekend hotel occupancy rates to levels the county hasn’t seen since move-in weekend this past August. The five January-February tournaments are estimated to results in close to 2,500 –3,000 room nights.

Hosting tournaments also brings destination awareness to those who may have never heard of or visited Happy Valley. They provide opportunities for repeat visitors to discover attractions or new restaurants and shops.

NVSC by Maggie Mc Manaman

Tournament activity at the Nittany Valley Sports Centre. Photo courtesy of NVSC.

Hosting tournaments also brings destination awareness to those who may have never heard of or visited Happy Valley. They provide opportunities for repeat visitors to discover attractions or new restaurants and shops.

Venues are the No. 1 driver for sports tourism. Happy Valley is fortunate to have state-of-the-art facilities, including C3 Sports, Nittany Valley Sports Centre, YMCA pickle ball courts, and the Hess and Oak Hall softball fields, among others. With the completion of The Centre’s Phase 2 expansion, that facility alone has 57,000 square feet of indoor hardcourt space. Future projects, such as the planned Whitehall Road softball fields, will only add to our robust offerings.

Another positive for Happy Valley is its central location in Pennsylvania and the East Coast. We are within a 3 to 4-hour driving distance from several major cities, which provides better opportunities for higher registration numbers and more spectators.

As with post-pandemic leisure visitation, competition for youth sports business will be fierce. The HVAB has been able to lay the groundwork to raise Happy Valley’s profile and to be ready as a community for new opportunities. With more than 55 non-Penn State tournaments already scheduled for 2021, we are well-positioned for success.

The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau cannot stress enough that we believe in responsible and safe travel. We do encourage visitors planning business or leisure travel to Happy Valley to refer to the following resources for reliable information and updates regarding COVID-19. Please keep in mind that some articles on this blog were written in a different age pre-virus. Please refer to the individual business websites for current status and hours available. HVAB links to business and other appropriate pages at every opportunity.