PA Sports Marks Milestone Promoting Keystone State

PA Sports celebrates its 20th anniversary of the statewide effort to draw sports tourism to Pennsylvania.

PA Sports Marks Milestone Promoting Keystone State

Two decades ago, PA Sports embarked on a mission with a clear vision: to harness the power of sports to foster economic growth, community engagement, and an enriched quality of life for Pennsylvanians. Understanding the magnetic appeal of sports, from grassroots events to major tournaments, a group of five DMOs set out to position Pennsylvania as a hub for sports enthusiasts, athletes, and event organizers alike.

Now up to 13 members, including two of the nation’s largest sports markets in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, PA Sports has been instrumental in bringing a diverse array of sporting events to Pennsylvania's state-of-the-art venues. From youth sports tournaments to collegiate championships and professional meets, the organization has curated a calendar that offers something for everyone, regardless of age or skill level. These events have not only showcased the competitive spirit of athletes but also highlighted the state's warm hospitality and robust infrastructure.

In 2023, the 13 members of PA Sports combined to host/support more than 460 events generating $480 million in estimated economic impact to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

“While Pennsylvania already boasts such a wide variety of high-quality sports destinations across the state, we are so much stronger together than the sum of our parts,” says Larry Needle, executive director of PHL Sports. “PA Sports has allowed us to collaborate across markets, hone our collective story and better share it with event planners around the country.”

PA Sports

As PA Sports marks its 20th anniversary, we talked to members of the statewide coalition about the keys to success working together and what lies ahead over the next 20 years and beyond.

Pennsylvania is so renowned for its love of sports already, so why is a statewide effort even needed to promote it as a sports destination?

Mark Jeanneret; Chair, PA Sports; Executive Director, Erie Sports Commission:
Simply put, to compete. Events are harder than ever to attract as competition has grown significantly in the sports tourism industry over the past 20 years. PA Sports members consistently highlight the best that Pennsylvania has to offer to event organizers, whether hosting mega events in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh or smaller events in Luzerne County and Johnstown.

Could you share insights on some of the key partnerships and collaborations that have been pivotal in PA Sports' success? In particular, how have destinations benefited from a joint effort vs. going it alone?

Danielle Vincenti, Vice Chair, PA Sports; Director of Business Development, Hershey Harrisburg Sports & Events Authority: Collaborating to advocate for sports tourism provides a collective voice for our members. A joint effort provides resources and a support network for members, including the exchange of ideas and best practices, as well as networking opportunities. Bringing destinations together to attend trade shows and industry events provides the ability for members to extend their reach and future business opportunities through increased visibility and shared appointments/leads. Creating cooperation across the Commonwealth enhances the effectiveness of our members.

Eric Engelbarts Executive Director; Happy Valley Sports & Entertainment Alliance:
Our destinations have benefited from joint marketing efforts in a number of ways. First, by working together, destinations have been able to reach a wider audience than they would be able to reach on their own. Second, joint marketing efforts have helped to create a more consistent message about Pennsylvania as a sports tourism destination. Finally, by the members of PA Sports working together, it has helped to reduce the costs of marketing and attending industry trade shows for individual destinations.

Over the past 20 years, what do you consider PA Sports' most significant achievements in promoting Pennsylvania as a premier sports destination?

Mark Jeanneret: “I believe the most significant achievement that PA Sports has experienced is how collaboration among our members has positively evolved into a solid brand that is well known in the sports tourism industry. While we are all competitive by nature, we work together on a common goal to bring events to Pennsylvania, whether it through marketing campaigns, sharing resources and experiences, or leaning on one another to learn more about events that have previously been hosted by PA Sports members.”

How do you anticipate technology playing a role in PA Sports' future goals? How has it helped this far?

Eric Engelbarts: PA Sports wants to leverage technology to elevate the sports experience for our visitors. Presently, online platforms facilitate seamless trip planning, though tracking event attendees can pose a challenge. Looking forward, our focus is on advanced tracking technology, enabling us to better understand our visitors and their preferences. Imagine using technology to provide event recommendations tailored to individual interests. Anticipate a more refined, professional, and personalized sports adventure.

PA Sports

What advice would you give to aspiring sports promoters who look up to PA Sports as a model for success?

Nicole Waligora, Secretary, PA Sports;  Sports Tourism Program Coordinator; Special Events Logistics and Vending, Visit Johnstown: I would tell him/her to seek relationships with destinations who work well with one another and are willing to collaborate. Creating a positive relationship with an entity like PA Sports is beneficial to a promoter. There are many cases where there are opportunities to create connections and have multiple events in one state. Not only does this benefit the destinations, but it also provides a promoter the opportunity to create a dominant presence in a state.”

Amy Capcara, Director of Sales, Marketing, and Events, Visit Monroeville: Don’t be afraid to build relationships in the industry and ask questions! PA Sports is a strong example of how working together leads to success. Reach out to partners in your own state, share leads, as well as knowledge/best practices, and have fun together.

Maizee Freeman, Manager, Tourism Development, Discover Lehigh Valley: Success finds its truest form in the synergy of a talented and diverse team. Each team member, with their distinctive perspectives drawn from a variety of experiences, contributes valuable insights to the discussion of plans, ideas, and challenges, providing a broader vision. This collaborative approach not only transforms conversations into executed plans but paves the way for shared success.

Photos courtesy of PA Sports