The following article appeared in the Pennsylvania State Sports Guide. Download the full guide below.
With its mountainous terrain, rolling hills, stunning lakes and millions of acres of forest, Pennsylvania is renowned for its natural beauty.
The Keystone State also sports a litany of superb cities that include places like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Lancaster and Erie. This combination of organic scenery and cosmopolitan boroughs makes Pennsylvania a tourism hotbed and a four-season destination for sporting events. While Pennsylvania’s wonders make it a desirable tournament location, a major reason the state is able to attract marquee events is the considerable efforts from the unified organization that is PA Sports.
PA Sports is a team of the leading sports tourism organizations from throughout Pennsylvania, consisting of 13 destinations with 16 individual members. Its mission is to attract and host local, regional, national and international sporting events and showcase the state as a viable sports event destination for professional, collegiate, interscholastic, amateur and youth sporting ventures.
“I’m very proud to lead such a dedicated group of talented individuals who are working cooperatively to attract sporting events and competitions to the Commonwealth,” said R. Ron Sertz, Executive Consultant of the Erie Sports Commission. “Their coordinated efforts are really making a significant difference to both the local and state-wide economies. PA Sports has demonstrated that the organization is a leader in the nation for attracting events to our various and diverse host cities, and the group continues to grow in both numbers and expertise to serve as a one-stop shop for event organizers and rights-holders throughout the nation.”
PA Sports’ members include the Butler County Sports Commission, the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau, Chester County CVB, Discover Lehigh Valley Sports, Erie Sports Commission, Greater Johnstown/Cambria County CVB, the Hershey Harrisburg Sports and Events Authority, PHL Sports, Sport York, Sports PITTSBURGH, Visit Luzerne County and Visit Monroeville.
The partnership between this assembly began as a way for members to collaborate with one another in an effort to find the perfect fit for an event. Leads are shared and members work together to ensure that if one destination cannot accommodate an event, others most likely can. This makes sure an event will stay in Pennsylvania, thus, helping enhance economic impact.
“The Pennsylvania Department of Tourism as well as state and local legislators from across the Commonwealth have come to recognize the tremendous impact of sports tourism, as well as the need for strong investment in this area due to the significant return,” Sertz said. “PA Sports has annually demonstrated measurable results and shown a clear ability to work together as potential host cities for all types and sizes of events.”
“PA Sports allows us to reach a broader group of rights holders and national governing bodies than we could if we were on our own,” said Gregg Cook, sports marketing manager at Hershey-Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau. “There is strength in numbers, and this is especially true with PA Sports.”
PA Sports became a reality in 2003, when its original members (Berks County, State College, Harrisburg, Lehigh Valley, Valley Forge and York) all chipped in $10,000 to begin their partnership. This milestone took place at an annual legislative dinner the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center in Hershey, Pa., with the organization’s founders concocting plans for PA Sports while scribbling ideas on a napkin.
From those humble beginnings grew an institution that has helped turn Pennsylvania into one of the country’s most desirable tourism locales, bringing the state major national and international exposure along with an infusion of capital. In recent years alone, Pennsylvania has hosted a slew of high-profile events, including the 2017 NFL Draft in Philadelphia, the NCAA Men’s Frozen Four in Pittsburgh in 2013 and in Philadelphia in 2014, the 2014 NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Elite 8 in Erie, the NASCAR Pocono 400, which takes place annually in Long Pond and the Little League World Series, which unfolds annually in South Williamsport.
“PA Sports has been a huge asset for us in Philadelphia,” said Larry Needle, executive director of PHL Sports. “(It has helped) us better connect with rights holders nationally while also collaborating with our counterparts across the state. We’re definitely all stronger together.”
While Pennsylvania has attracted a wealth of amateur and professional sporting events, it is also a major destination for college-level events. Clearly emboldened by the success that accompanied the state’s most recent Frozen Four events, the NCAA awarded Pennsylvania 53 additional sporting events that will take place between 2018 and 2022, with Pittsburgh being awarded 22 preliminary rounds and finals, the most of any city in the country. Events have also been awarded to Erie, Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia and State College.
“The announcement from the NCAA demonstrates the attractiveness of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a sports destination,” said Sertz. “It confirms the effectiveness of the overall marketing efforts of PA Sports and its member organizations, and further establishes Pennsylvania as a leader in sport tourism.”
With so many top-notch facilities across the state, from bigger stadiums like Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and Heinz Field in Pittsburgh to venues like 1st Summit Arena at Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown (home to the cult classic film Slap Shot), Pennsylvania’s sporting infrastructure is established, ensuring athletic events will continue to arrive in droves. And PA Sports’ members are primed to accommodate them all.
“No matter the sport or size of your event, one of our 13 member destinations can serve as your perfect host city,” Sertz said. “PA Sports (sportsinpa.com) is your one-stop shop for a wide range of indoor and outdoor facilities across Pennsylvania that offer easy accessibility, affordability and leisure time attractions.”