CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Seven weekends each fall, State College transforms from a university town to a hub of over 100,000 Penn State Football fans. It’s a gold mine for local restaurants and bars that open their doors to tailgaters, watch parties, and more.
The return of college football brings opportunity for these local businesses. Last year, the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau estimated no fans in the stands would result in about $70-80 million in financial loss for the county.
“Last year was a difficult year for us with COVID, with the restrictions that were happening throughout Pennsylvania,” said Stefan Cherinka, general manager of Toftrees Golf Resort.
The Field Burger & Tap at Toftrees knows the impact football has on business and their connection to the game goes a step further. They said Coach James Franklin is a frequent customer with football recruits and even has his own burger on the menu.
“Football weekends are always positive for us, you know so we expect more of the same with maybe just a little more growth, I think people are a little excited of sitting home and want to get out,” said Cherinka.
To bring in more customers and revenue, they’re hosting the first-ever ‘Field Fest’ on September 10 with headliner DJ Pauly D, best known for his role on MTV’s reality show ‘Jersey Shore’.
“We wanted to welcome the football fans back and it’s the first home game so we thought to take that Friday afternoon and really offer a great entertainment venue,” said Plato Ghinos, president of the Shaner Corp.
Ghinos said they’ve sold several hundred tickets so far, with general admission priced at $30 and VIP at $100.
In downtown State College, Federal Taphouse can now host up to 400 people for lunch and dinner.
“Revenues are up and we’re able to create more jobs, so we’re very happy,” said Jessica Wargo, general manager of Federal Taphouse.
She said filling the jobs, however, has been a challenge.
“We’re definitely shorter staff than we’ve ever been, so we’ve just made a little adjustment to our hours,” said Wargo.
Wargo said she’s had to step-in in the meantime, working occasionally in the kitchen while they’re understaffed. She said she’s hopeful the return of Penn State students and faculty will help fill these positions and seats.
“We’re very excited to have everybody back and be back in full staff and working again,” said Wargo.
A 2019 study shows Penn State contributes about $11.6 billion to the Pennsylvania economy each year.
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