Venerable organization helps the Keystone State thrive

The impact sports tourism has on state economies is monumental.

For proof, one needn’t look any further than this past May when Sports ETA released its State of the Industry report for the sports tourism industry. The report shows in 2021, national sports tourism created a total economic impact of $91.8 billion, generated $12.9 billion in taxes and supported 635,000 full-time and part-time jobs. And this comes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which staggered the sports tourism industry, if only temporarily.

Sports tourism has been thriving in Pennsylvania for years, thanks in large part to the efforts of PA Sports, a team of the leading sports tourism organizations from throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The mission of PA Sports is to attract and host international, national, regional and local sporting events as well as showcase Pennsylvania as a viable sports event destination for professional, collegiate, interscholastic, amateur and youth sporting ventures. This fosters economic development and enriches the quality of life in the Commonwealth.

PA Sports is made up of 13 member destinations across the state: Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau, Chester County CVB, Discover Lehigh Valley, Erie Sports Commission, Hershey Harrisburg Sports & Events Authority, PHL Sports, Sport York, SportsPITTSBURGH, The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau, Valley Forge Sports, Visit Johnstown, Visit Luzerne County and VM Sports. The group collectively works to market the state to sporting events organizers through trade shows, sales missions and marketing campaigns.

“It’s not hard to estimate that the impact of sports tourism in [Pennsylvania] is $500-$600 million, or more, annually.”

“PA Sports members have a long history of working together, despite the fact that most are competing to attract the exact same events to their communities,” said Mark Jeanneret, executive director of the Erie Sports Commission and chair of PA Sports. “We all share a common vision, which is to make certain that Pennsylvania is always viewed as an attractive location to host a sporting event by event organizers.”

For Pennsylvania, the economic impact from sports tourism has value that extends beyond the actual competition. The state has the good fortune of being a 12-month vacation destination and has long been a popular travel destination. From major cities and charming small towns to rugged woodlands and a lush countryside, there are endless options to explore. Extending tourism beyond the events is a significant part of the PA Sports mission. Athletes, their families, coaches and officials all contribute to Pennsylvania’s local and state economies.

NCAA Women’s Frozen Final Four at Erie Insurance Arena
Northeastern and Wisconsin face off in the championship game of the 2021 NCAA Women’s Frozen Final Four held at Erie Insurance Arena. Photo courtesy of Erie Sports Commission.

To illustrate the impact of sports tourism in Pennsylvania, PA Sports performed an economic impact survey for sports tourism in the state. Acquiring data from 10 of its members, PA Sports shared that in 2021 its members hosted 385 events. Total attendance of those events was nearly 570,000 and the estimated economic impact of these events was $236 million.

Some of the bigger events PA Sports members hosted and/or supported in 2021 included: USA Cycling Masters, Junior, Elite & Para Track National Championships, Lehigh Valley; US Junior Nationals Hershey Showcase, Hershey Harrisburg; NCAA Women’s Frozen Four, Erie; NCAA Men’s Frozen Four, Pittsburgh; and the National Xball (Paintball) League Mid-Atlantic Major, Valley Forge.

“To see that our members helped generate more than $236 million in economic impact in 2021 is impressive but it’s really not painting a complete picture of the tremendous positive impact that sports tourism has in Pennsylvania,” said Jeanneret. “There are countless other sporting events and competitions taking place in the Commonwealth every year that aren’t connected to our members. It’s not hard to estimate that the impact of sports tourism in the entire state is $500-$600 million, or more, annually.”

“Sports tourism has been a major contributor in the recovery and Pennsylvania needs to be aggressive in its approach to attract events and competitions.”

To further encourage the growth of sports tourism in the state, PA Sports supports a grant program for its members. In the two years that the program has been in operation, $47,500 in total grants have been awarded and 21 events were supported. This resulted in total attendance of more than 76,000 and generated more than 23,500 room nights, resulting in an economic impact of $18.7 million.

“PA Sports offers its members numerous ways to increase the impact that they have in their communities, especially as we continue to recover from the initial restrictions brought on by the pandemic,” Jeanneret said. “Sports tourism has been a major contributor in the recovery and Pennsylvania needs to be aggressive in its approach to attract events and competitions. PA Sports is positioned to lead the way.”

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By Jason Paha

PA Sports is made up of 13 member destinations across the state. Photo courtesy of PA Sports.