How Sweet It Is in Hershey/Harrisburg

By Matt Swenson, July 23, 2018

The Hershey/Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Sports and Events Authority has two obvious selling points for youth athletics. Both start with the first name in the organization headed by Executive Director Gregg Cook.

This region between Baltimore, Maryland, and Philadelphia is the closest thing to a real-life Candyland. The late Milton S. Hershey assumes the role of Willy Wonka here. His legacy can’t be wrapped in a pretty wrapper, but it’s sweet nonetheless.

Anything that bears the Hershey name—including luxury resorts, the world famous amusement park and of course, Hershey’s Chocolate World—gives part of its revenue toward a foundation that funds college education for children in need.

It’s hard to believe the Connect Sports Executive Advisory Board did anything but indulge (it’s hard not to when even martinis at Devon Seafood & Steak come with Hershey’s kisses) when meeting there in June.

But it’s safe to say the group of esteemed sports events professionals came away with a great taste in its mouth after learning how it’s taken only two years for Cook to lead the Hershey/Harrisburg Sports and Events Authority into a forward-thinking group capable of huge achievements. Here are some bite-sized sweets Connect Sports came away with.

It’s Where Stars Are Born

Perhaps only Texas can claim to live and breathe sports more than Pennsylvania. That’s especially true in Hershey and Harrisburg. Giant Center averages more than 9,000 fans per night for Hershey Bears’ AHL games. The Bears are an affiliate of the Washington Capitals, which won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history this year. That success figures to trickle down with more out-of-towners joining the rabid Bears fans in cheering on future NHL stars (about half of the Capitals spent some time in Hershey before hitting the big league).

Another connection to Washington, D.C., is the Harrisburg Senators. The Washington Nationals’ double-AA affiliate play at FNB Park, a beautiful facility on Harrisburg City Island. Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Trea Turner honed their skills in the Pennsylvania capital. Future stars are sure to come through here, which leads us to…

The Authority Is Growing Up Fast

Cook always envisioned leading homegrown events once the sports and events authority evolved beyond the CVB. But that day is coming sooner than imagined. Cook and company took over ownership of this summer’s Big 26 Baseball Classic (Pennsylvania vs. Maryland all-stars) after the death of the past organizer. There’s no doubt this group is quickly raising its game.

Emily Jaenson, the only woman general manager in Triple-A Baseball, discusses how she has continued to succeed in a tradtionally male-dominated role.

Loudoun Sports Tourism recently launched as a sports-specific brand targeting events to bring to the Northern Virginia county.

Patrick Coogan, president and CEO of SportsBR, shares stories of his baseball career and his vision for sports in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Carey Harverycutter and John Shaner share the secret formula that has worked so well for Salem, Virginia, in sports tourism.