The Economic Impacts of Sports Events in Centre County

Centre County, Pennsylvania is home to Happy Valley and the main campus of the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State). A key driver of tourism activity in the area are visitors attracted by the variety of sports events and activities that occur on the Penn State campus and at sites throughout the county over the course of the year. ESI was engaged by the Happy Valley Sports and Entertainment Alliance in 2022 to quantify the annual impact of sporting events on the Centre County economy.

Penn State Athletics is a Division I athletics organization with 31 different sports teams that competes in the Big Ten Conference. Penn State football games, and the variety of other competitions and events at Penn State athletics facilities, attract significant visitation each year. In addition, Centre County has other athletic events that draw visitors to locations throughout the county, ranging from marathons, minor sports leagues (State College Spikes), and tournaments. These events are hosted at major venues including the Nittany Valley Sports Centre, C3 Sports, and various venues maintained by the Centre Region Parks and Recreation Department.

Sports event attendees have a significant impact within the Centre County economy as they dine in local restaurants, shop at local stores, and in some cases stay overnight within the County. Visitor spending is supplemented by the economic impacts from the operations of Penn State Athletics, which is a major employer and procurer of goods and services. ESI estimated that in the aggregate, sports events and associated activity generate an annual economic impact of $417 million within Centre County, supporting 4,315 jobs with $133 million in employee compensation. Impacts of this economic activity within Pennsylvania are $467 million.

Beyond the impacts quantified in this report, the presence of large-scale athletics events provides several additional benefits for Centre County and its economy:

  • Licensing and merchandising, media exposure and spending provide outlets for revenue-generation and image-building.
  • Donations and charitable contributions put dollars from Penn State alumni around the world to work in the Centre County economy.
  • Community engagement and volunteer activity expand impacts within the local community.
  • Destination awareness and repeat visitation are built through sporting events, growing tourism activity over the long term.

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