After opening earlier this year in Patton Township, the Nittany Valley Sports Centre is set for phase two — a $5.4 million expansion project that’s hoped to make Centre County a sports tourism destination.
With support from local and state officials, the 70,000 square foot, soon-to-be-renamed Nittany Valley Sports and Event Centre will expand with an additional 50,000 square feet to primarily be used for hard court sports, tournaments, trade shows and conventions, owner Michael Lee said. The project is funded in part by a Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant, the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau and a loan from Juniata Valley Bank.
“We saw an opportunity to leverage the infrastructure we’ve already put in place here,” Lee said, adding that the second phase will result in the kind of facility that will enable the county to host larger, more versatile events.
The existing $7 million facility indoor facility off Fox Hill Road, near the University Park Airport, is primarily used for turf sports, gymnastics and hosts the Parisi Speed School — a speed and agility program geared toward kids ages 7 to 18 with adult classes and a fitness center. The facility also rents out space within the center, and the fields and courts and available for leagues and organizations to use.
Lee thinks the expansion will enhance the county’s ability to increase tourism by offering new sporting and event opportunities. During the week, Lee said the hard courts will be used for local play and training sessions while weekends will focus on attracting tournaments, trade shows and conventions. The facility also plans to launch its own volleyball and basketball clubs.
“The concept is that if we can bring the tournaments to town, not only for our business, but it’s an economic generator for the community,” Lee said.
Lee predicts the expansion will generate about $3 million annually, and that’s if only 30% is utilized. This potential for growth was what attracted the CPCVB to the project.
“We need more exhibit space here,” said CPCVB President and CEO Fritz Smith, adding that the county has turned businesses away due to a lack of space to host certain events.
By partnering with the visitors bureau, Lee said both his business and the county will be able to benefit from the expansion. Because the new facility will be able to provide space for larger, weekend events, people will stay in hotels and home shares, adding funds to the hotel tax.
Lee thinks the sports and event center will bring something new to the area and said the facility’s reach will extend beyond State College and will be available for a large number of people who rent the space.
“Penn State certainly has multiple, large facilities, but they’re primarily used for Penn State functions and use,” Lee said. “This will certainly be the closest to a convention center-type of facility that would exist in the Centre Region that would be accessible for folks outside of Penn State.”
Lee doesn’t see the facility as being in competition with Penn State. Instead, he thinks the two will be able to work together in a way that will attract people to the area for longer and repeated visits.
“People want to have their sporting events here,” Smith said. “Because it literally is in the center of the state, you pull all kinds of people from different directions.”
While managing a soon-to-be 120,000 square foot facility isn’t exactly a small feat, Lee wants to work with the existing structure by holding athletic tournaments and eventually, work his way up to hosting expos, concerts, drone racing and E-sports.
With Hawbaker Engineering overseeing construction, Lee hopes the facility will be up and running by the end of next fall.
“What we’ll essentially create is 100,000 square feet, including phase one and phase two, of multi-purpose space that’s primary purpose is sports, but certainly can be used for many, many different things,” Lee said.