UNIVERSITY PARK — While the teams will be wearing blue and white and maize and blue when Penn State takes on Michigan at Beaver Stadium today, local businesses will be seeing green.
According to a study completed in 2022 for Happy Valley Adventure Bureau, Penn State football home games are the biggest drivers of sports-related economic impact, generating $87 million in visitor spending and accounting for about 890,500 of Centre County’s 1.7 million annual sports events attendees.
Using 2021 and 2019 data, on average a football weekend generates $12 million in visitor spending to Centre County, said the Adventure Bureau’s Dave Gerdes, vice president of sales and marketing.
“For a weekend versus a major opponent like Michigan, it’s probably pushing more like $15 million,” he said, adding that with this weekend’s good weather report, he expects about 175,000 fans in the parking lot on Saturday.
That crowd is good news for area businesses, he said.
“Our hotel community relies on the seven football weekends to generate 20% of their annual revenues,” Gerdes said. “That impact reaches within an one hour radius of State College and even into the Harrisburg area.”
Mark Ickes, executive director of Explore Altoona, said Smith Travel Research reports show Blair County’s hotel properties have had extremely busy weekends over the first five home game weekends compared to the same home game weekends last year.
The average hotel occupancy has had a 10% increase, and total hotel revenue has had a 45% increase, Ickes said.
The Altoona Grand Hotel is among those businesses feeling the impact from Penn State home games, said General Manager Lindsay Danella.
“We have multiple groups of people that book here as soon as the schedule is announced,” she said.
Danella said the Penn State football season feeds the Altoona market “more than any event we have ever seen.”
Lodging is one of the first markets to see the demand in advance, she said, but the onslaught of fans on game day pushes revenue toward restaurants, shopping, gas stations, nightlight, coffee stations and just pretty much “everything.”
She credits the completion of I-99 years ago that helped drive Penn State fans to the Altoona area.
“Penn State fans bring an energy and revenue influx to Altoona that we don’t see any other time,” Danella said. “It’s so exciting to be a part of it.”
Located just off the I-99 Pinecroft interchange, Comfort Suites is also feeling the effects of Penn State home games, said General Manager Ron Petruccioli.
The game against Michigan had increased bookings for Friday night, he said, noting the hotel normally sees an increase on either Friday or Saturday of home game weekends.
“We fill up for most every Penn State game, but for a game like Michigan we sell out earlier than the other games,” said Tammy Myers, assistant manager.
Beaver Stadium fourth largest
Beaver Stadium has an official seating capacity of 106,572, making it the second largest stadium in the Western Hemisphere and the fourth largest in the world.
There is a lot riding on the Penn State game versus Michigan, as a win would put Penn State in position for a Big Ten title game. The stakes and the rivalry are expected to draw a huge crowd.
“You can argue this will be the largest gathering of people in the world at that time,” Gerdes said. “It is phenomenal if you think about it.”
Getting tickets on game day may be possible, for those with deep pockets.
“I have seen on social media that tickets are selling for $500 and $600,” Gerdes said.
Bars and other venues showing the game are expected to draw a crowd, too.
“The businesses in Downtown State College look forward to 100,000 fans descending upon Happy Valley and what that means for local revenue,” said Executive Director Lee Anne Jeffries of the Downtown State College Improvement District.
Hotels, restaurants and retailers count on home football weekends to get them through the year, she said.
“It definitely means more business for us, I would say up 10 to 15 percent compared to other games,” said owner Steve Moyer of Lion’s Pride on College Avenue. But that increase in business also depends on the game’s start time.
“A noon start time is horrible for us,” he said. “If it were at night it would have an even more significant impact for us.”
At The Family Clothesline on College Avenue, Chief Operating Officer Caroline Gummo said the seven home football games are their biggest weekends of the year.
When Penn State plays a top tier opponent like Michigan, coupled with a beautiful weekend and fans out in full force, this weekend’s business forecast to be “one of the best weekends we’ve seen for State College,” she said.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 814-946-7467.