“Over the years, there have been calls from various sectors of the community for a formal commission to seek out and attract larger national and international sports and entertainment events,” said Fritz Smith, HVAB President and CEO. “Buoyed by strong university and community support, we feel the time is now right to pursue the creation of a dedicated sports commission in order to capitalize on the tremendous opportunity we see for Happy Valley to grow into a sought-after destination for marquee events and tournaments.”
Smith said a number of factors prompted the HVAB to pursue a formal commission, beginning with the increasingly competitive sports tourism landscape. While most large cities have sports commissions or authorities, there has been a proliferation of commissions in secondary and tertiary communities. Nine sports commissions have already been formed for 14 cities in the Big Ten Conference. In addition, Smith said Penn State University’s powerful athletics programs and traditions provide a strong foundation upon which to. Build. “Knowing that we have university support and buy-in is critical to the long-term success of this effort, and one important factor in moving forward,” he said.
“Knowing that we have university support and buy-in is critical to the long-term success of this effort, and one important factor in moving forward"
- Fritz Smith
The partnership is a great opportunity to continue to grow our regional economy through sports and entertainment.
In fact, Penn State and the local community have a longstanding partnership supporting economic growth on many levels. The creation of this commission formalizes an already robust impact that sports and entertainment have on the region. The focus will be on making Happy Valley the premier destination for major sporting and entertainment events at all levels that range from youth to pro sports, with Penn State Athletics serving as a keystone component in enhancing the regional economy.”
Taking Steps to Become a Major Player in Sports and Entertainment Tourism
Recent developments are positioning Happy Valley to take steps to become a major player in the sports and entertainment tourism field. They include:
- The combination of new public athletic facilities that complement the university’s world-class venues
- The HVAB’s hiring of an experienced, dedicated sports management professional Jake Morelli to proactively work with the area’s sports market and all of its entities
- The increased interest from tournament and event organizers in bringing events to Happy Valley
"This is a chance to showcase our beautiful county and our amazing sports history"
- Fritz Smith
While there have been informal efforts in the past, the timing for this new, more coordinated initiative is perfect. The commission will allow for higher-level management and coordination of tournaments and events being held or potentially being held in the area; better identify and resolve potential scheduling conflicts; and make the hosting of events in Happy Valley a positive experience for the community and visitors.
This is a chance to showcase our beautiful county and our amazing sports history. We are so excited to offer first-class athletic venues, lodging and restaurant amenities in our area, and to share the passion and expertise we have for hosting major events. The positive impact on the country’s economy will be significant.
A Sought-After Destination for Marquee Events
Upcoming major sports bookings will continue to increase economic impact numbers. PIAA boys’ and girls’ spring sports festival and fall golf championships will be held in the region through 2025 and 2026. The Ironman 70.3 triathlon in July 2023 will feature more than 2,000 competitors from 5 countries and 45 states, and will have more than 100 athletes from Happy Valleys, PA competing as well.
“Happy Valley has athletics in its DNA,” HVAB Sports Services Manager Jake Morelli said. “The forming of the Happy Valley Sports and Entertainment Alliance creates an opportunity to capitalize even more on our growing reputation as a premier sports and entertainment destination.”
“Happy Valley has athletics in its DNA. The forming of the Happy Valley Sports and Entertainment Alliance creates an opportunity to capitalize even more on our growing reputation as a premier sports and entertainment destination.”
- Sports Services Manager Jake Morelli
New Study Shows the Economic Impact of Sports in Happy Valley
The first step that the new alliance took was to commission a sports economic impact study conducted by EConsult Solutions Inc.
That study found that sports events in Happy Valley:
- Generate an annual economic impact of nearly $417 million — $87 milllion at home football games
- Support 4,315 jobs within Centre County
- Result in compensation of $133 million to employees
- Have a statewide impact of $467 million
- Bring 1.7 million people to Centre County annually — 890,000 to Penn State home football games alone