Night Penn State football game provides boost for State College businesses

A sea of white filled Beaver Stadium on Saturday for Penn State’s football battle with the University of Central Florida, while the night game meant some extra green for State College-area businesses.

Chris Vakasisikakala, a student from New York City and an employee at Old State Clothing Co. at Beaver Avenue and Allen Street, said when the Nittany Lions play in the evening, sales can nearly triple from what is seen when games start at noon.

“I think it allows people to have more time to drive in with their families if they’re from out of the area, tour downtown a bit and do some shopping before the game,” Vakasisikakala said. “There is limited time with the day game, so although we still see a spike in business most Saturdays, it’s nothing like what we see when there’s a night game.”

This week’s game, against Kent State, is set for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff. The Oct. 12 battle with Michigan will begin at 5 p.m., meaning extra time for fans to visit shops and restaurants.

“There are a lot of noon games and by early afternoon, business really slows or ends for a while,” Vakasisikakala said. “People will just stop coming in at a certain point on those game days and don’t have much of a reason to shop after the game.”

Down South Allen Street, dozens of people were in and out of Rapid Transit Sports and employees said they were too busy to be interviewed. The same went for Lions Pride around the corner on College Avenue.

At Harper’s Fine Clothing & Sportswear for Men, owner Brian Cohen said he also sees a spike in business before later football games.

“I think it’s as simple as people just having more time to shop before the game starts,” Cohen said. “They’re not hurrying in to tailgate before an earlier game then heading home afterward.

“We’re seeing a consistent, steady and heavy flow until the gates open for game time.”

Last week, Cohen opened “Varsity Club,” a section of the store that showcases upscale, vintage Penn State apparel.

The most popular new items, Cohen said, are blue or white sweaters bearing the letter “S.” He said they represent old-style football shirts from more than 100 years ago.

“You’d think something like this caters to an older crowd,” Cohen said, “but you’d be surprised how many younger folks come in and say, ‘Wow. I really like that,’ and have to have it.”

According to folks at the apparel stores, “Iron Lion” shirts and long-sleeved T-shirts, hoodies or sweaters are their top sellers to keep fans warm as the weather cools.

Carly Stone was wandering from store to store Saturday in search of a Penn State blanket.

“Fall’s (arriving) here and it’s football season,” Stone said. “You have to enjoy the game, be warm and wrap up in a blanket, especially if it has your team’s logo on it.”

Wrapping up in something white for a night game at Beaver Stadium is special, season-ticket holder Jason Casper said.

“It’s fun when you’re able to do something cool that’s exclusive to Penn State or shows our pride in a different way,” Casper said.