From East to West, with many destinations in between, Pennsylvania can host any competition

With major cosmopolitan cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh surrounded by smaller, yet no less cultured cities and towns across the state, Pennsylvania is an event planner’s dream destination.

This is evidenced by the multitude of events that PA Sports members have hosted or are planning to host in the near future.

Philadelphia has a long history of hosting major events. PHL Sports, a division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, welcomed the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Regional Championships in 2022 and has five more NCAA Championships on its schedule in the next four years. And in 2026, the Commonwealth’s largest city will be front-and-center as hosts of FIFA World Cup 2026, the MLB All-Star Game, the 108th PGA Championship and the U.S. Amateur (golf) Championship.

“[Philadelphia and Pittsburgh] have the resources to bring in major championships and the expertise to make certain they execute them at a high level.”

Sports tourism has a major impact on the other side of the state as well as SportsPITTSBURGH recently won the rights to host more NCAA Championship events than any other destination in the U.S. The lengthy list included the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Frozen Four and NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball First and Second Round games in 2022. Pittsburgh is also looking forward to hosting the National Senior Games in 2023 as well as the U.S. Open Championship in 2025.

“The two largest members of PA Sports have done a fantastic job attracting world-class events for years,” said Amy Capcara, vice chair of PA Sports and Sales and Marketing Manager for VM Sports. “They have the resources to bring in major championships and the expertise to make certain they execute them at a high level.”

PA Sports members in smaller cities across the state also shine.

On the west side of the state, the Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau will host the Can-Am Police-Fire Games in 2024; the Erie Sports Commission recently hosted the 2021 NCAA Women’s Four Frozen; and VM Sports in Monroeville supported the American Junior Golf Association Preview at Westmoreland in 2022.

Centrally, Hershey Harrisburg Sports & Events Authority annually hosts the U.S. Junior Nationals Hershey Showcase, one of the longest-running organizations in girls’ basketball nationwide; The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau crowned the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four champion in 2022 and will host the 2024 U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team Trials; Sport York annually hosts the Northeast Power Series MLK Volleyball Tournament; and Visit Johnstown hosts the All-American Amateur Baseball Association Tournament annually.

American Corn Hole ACL Open and ACL Pro Shootout in Erie
2021 ACL Open #9 and the ACL Pro Shootout #1 held at Bayfront Convention Center in Erie. Photo courtesy of Erie Sports Commission.

To the east, Chester County CVB supported the 2022 USA Archery Target Nationals & U.S. Open; the USA Cycling Masters, Junior, Elite & Para Track Championships were hosted by Discover Lehigh Valley in 2021; Valley Forge Sports was home to the National Xball (Paintball) League Mid-Atlantic Major in 2021 and will welcome the U.S. Youth Soccer Eastern Presidents Cup in 2023; and Visit Luzerne County recently signed a five-year contract to continue as host of the Keystone State Games.

“The majority of our membership is making a positive impact through youth events, whether they be regional, statewide or national,” Danielle Vincenti, PA Sports secretary and Director of Business Development for the Hershey Harrisburg Sports & Events Authority, said. “Even though most of these events are smaller in stature, collectively they still pack a punch and drive significant economic impact in their respective destination.”

Pennsylvania has proven to be a desirable sports destination thanks in part to its ideal location and weather that offers opportunities in all four seasons. Located within eight hours of more than half of the population in the U.S., the Commonwealth features easy accessibility, drivable markets and close proximity to major metropolitan areas, which can help with increasing participant numbers.

“We are extremely fortunate to have top quality sports venues and plenty of activities outside of competition across the state that will appeal to participants and their families year-round.”

And when athletes aren’t competing, Pennsylvania has unmatched leisure time activities, ranging from outdoor recreation, historic attractions, amusement parks and a host of professional and collegiate sports options.

Here are just a few attractions that draw thousands each year:

Hershey’s Chocolate World and Hersheypark in Hershey, where guests can explore the many wonders of chocolate
Penn State Berkey Creamery, a historic creamery in Happy Valley that has been making ice cream since 1889
The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh is the largest museum in North America dedicated to a single artist
Moraine State Park in Butler County resides on 16,725 acres and is one of the largest parks in Western Pennsylvania
Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square is a place to view dazzling displays that elevate the art of horticulture
Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia preserves several sites associated with the American Revolution
Presque Isle State Park in Erie is a 3,200-acre forested peninsula that arches into Lake Erie that attracts 4 million visitors each year, more than Yellowstone National Park

“We are extremely fortunate to have top quality sports venues and plenty of activities outside of competition across the state that will appeal to participants and their families year-round,” said Gregg Cook, past chair of PA Sports and Executive Director of the Hershey Harrisburg Sports & Events Authority. “Add to that the sports tourism and event expertise provided by destination members of PA Sports and you can’t go wrong hosting your future event in Pennsylvania.”

By Jason Paha

Rec Hall at Penn State University Park is a legendary venue that has hosted numerous major events since 1928. Photo courtesy of The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau.