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HVAB forms commission to boost sports & entertainment tourism

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The sun sets over Beaver Stadium as the Blue Band performs before the Penn State football game against Auburn on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021.

The sun sets over Beaver Stadium as the Blue Band performs before the Penn State football game against Auburn on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021.

Could more concerts be held at Beaver Stadium? How about an NHL Winter Classic game or a soccer friendly?

While some of these ideas might be more feasible than others, Tuesday’s announcement of the Happy Valley Sports and Entertainment Commission could be the first step in making similar events possible and elevating sports tourism in Centre County.

Happy Valley Adventure Bureau President and CEO Fritz Smith announced the creation of the commission at Beaver Stadium following Penn State football coach James Franklin’s weekly press conference. The stadium, which seats over 106,000 people, figures to be a central piece in the plan to make Happy Valley a top sports and entertainment destination.

“Today is about a big announcement,” Smith said. “It’s a big day — we think — for Centre County, for Happy Valley. We are announcing the formation of a sports and entertainment commission. I think that the theme here — there are two themes that I emphasize. One is thinking big and the second is partnerships — the power of partnerships. We’re sitting here in the second-largest stadium in the United States of America — the fourth-largest in the world — and it has always struck me that the very presence of this facility means that we need to stretch and we need to think big.”

Joining him at the podium were former Penn State associate athletic director and Icers coach Joe Battista, who will serve as the chairman of the commission, and Penn State associate athletic director Scott Sidwell, who will serve as the vice chairman.

It’s “past time” for such a commission to be formed in Centre County, Smith said, as he pointed out there are more than 300 sports and entertainment commissions in the United States and 15 in Pennsylvania, as well as nine in the 14 cities that host Big Ten universities.

Smith pointed to sports tourism efforts already happening in the area, such as the Nittany Valley Sports Centre, which hosts camps and tournaments for kids from all over the country in its Patton Township location, which includes “70,000 square feet of turf fields, basketball courts, a fitness center, gymnastics training space and physical therapy office.”

In a release, the HVAB outlined a number of developments that the commission believes will build Happy Valley as a “major player in the sports and entertainment tourism field,” which include:

  • The addition of new public athletic facilities that complement the university’s world-class venues
  • The HVAB’s hiring of an experienced, dedicated sports sales professional to proactively pursue opportunities
  • The increased interest from tournament and event organizers in bringing events to Happy Valley

Sidwell pointed to Penn State football’s White-Out Game against Auburn on Sept. 18, which hosted 109,958 fans, marking the 10th-largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history. “It’s become the marquee event in college sports and really all of sports,” he said. According to Sidwell, research has revealed that the White-Out was the largest in-person event in the United State that day, and possibly in the world.

“That’s a big deal,” Sidwell said. “I think we can capitalize on that.”

Sidwell mentioned hosting another concert at Beaver Stadium, which has only happened once, in 2018, potentially bringing TopGolf to the region, and highlighted the university’s world-class turf grass management program, which allowed the stadium to be utilized for graduation in the spring.

As for holding the NHL Winter Classic or a professional soccer game, there might be a few hurdles in the way.

“We’ve explored the Winter Classic,” Sidwell said. “Certainly what has to happen to bring in the chillers to get the ice ready to do that. Obviously, it’s hit or miss around the first of the year whether you’ll be 50 degrees or five degrees here in State College. But there’s a significant expense to that and we’re going to continue to try to find ways to make that happen. We would love to host that event. [It’s] probably going to take some collaboration of the sports commission to come together to see how we might drive some resources from the local community to help make that an economic engine in that part of the year, when we don’t necessarily have that.”

While a Flyers vs. Penguins outdoor game could still be a possibility, it doesn’t appear that a soccer game would be on the table right now, as Sidwell said the field would not fit in the Beaver Stadium configuration. However, he said that configuration could change and that evaluations are ongoing.

No specific time frame was given for when Beaver Stadium could again hold an event like a concert.

But the possibilities for expanded sports and entertainment tourism weren’t limited to the…

Read More: HVAB forms commission to boost sports & entertainment tourism

2021-11-16 23:27:15

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