More than 100,000 fans fill Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley, Pa., seven Saturdays per year for Penn State football games. Imagine if that sort of crowd could be replicated another 10 to 12 times.
That’s the thought process behind last week’s launch of the Happy Valley Sports and Entertainment Commission. The announcement was fittingly made at Penn State University following football coach James Franklin’s press conference.
While the region has several facilities for rights holders to choose from, it could be said Happy Valley begins and ends with its famed university.
Happy Valley Adventure Bureau President and CEO Fritz Smith says the initiative is a means toward the end of increased cooperation between the established CVB, the school and the community at large.
“We’re here today to show what we can do together,” Smith says.
Chairing the new entity is Joe Battista, former Penn State associate athletic director, Nittany Lion Club director, Penn State Icers hockey head coach and a director of Penn State Summer Hockey Camps. Penn State Deputy Athletic Director (External) Scott Sidwell will serve as vice chair.
Sports is not a new passion in Happy Valley. Beyond football, Penn State fields championship-level teams in women’s volleyball as well as men’s and women’s soccer. On the youth and amateur level, Danielle Vincenti, CSEE, came aboard in 2020 as the CVB’s sports sales manager. She and Dave Gerdes, vice president of sales and marketing, will remain the point people for rights holders and organizations looking to bring events to the region.
“Athletics is in our DNA in Happy Valley,” Smith says. “We believe there is an opportunity to capitalize even more on our growing reputation as a sports and entertainment destination, and are taking the necessary steps that other communities have taken to achieve this goal. Today’s announcement ushers in a new era of collaborative town and gown partnership to strengthen the economy through sports and leisure visitation.”
Huddle Up Group, the consultancy led by sports tourism industry veteran Jon Schmieder, is conducting research to develop an advisory plan to guide the new commission. The study is expected to be completed in spring 2022.
“Our team is looking forward to working with the team in Happy Valley,” says Schmieder. “They are excited to get the new sports commission there set up for success and we are glad we can play a small part in their new journey.”
Smith acknowledges Happy Valley had been a holdout when it came to forming a separate sports and entertainment commission. But with 15 other Pennsylvania-based DMOs and many other Big 10 communities, including Columbus, Ohio, and Ann Arbor, Mich., having already made such a move, Smith felt the time had come to make the move.
Among the benefits, Smith says, are greater fundraising capabilities.
“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,” he says.
Photo provided by The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau