It started with an email — one that needed a swift reply.
“Do you want to play at Rec Hall, yes or no?” Penns Valley Athletic Director Nate Althouse recalls.
The answer was a no-brainer.
Penns Valley and Bellefonte boys’ and girls’ basketball will make history in one of the nation’s storied venues, playing in Rec Hall on Friday night. The girls will square off at 6 p.m., and the boys at 7:30 p.m.
It will be the first time high school basketball will be played at Rec Hall, at least, to the recollection of Althouse and Bellefonte athletic directors Deb Moore and Jonathan Clark and a number of other local, long-time sports spectators.
It’ll add another page to the history book of Rec Hall, a venue that, since its opening in 1928, has been a pillar in the Penn State and Centre County sports community.
Around here, if you were born and raised, that’s where all the games were. So it’ll be a little nostalgic.
Deb Moore, Bellefonte athletic director
Home to Penn State wrestling, volleyball, gymnastics, and, previously, basketball, Rec Hall will welcome some new faces on its hardwood, and that has the Bellefonte and Penns Valley programs excited.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Clark said. “It’s something that’s in our community. It’s part of our local culture.”
Althouse said the opportunity arose out of an email sent out to all District 6 athletic departments by Altoona Athletic Director Phil Riccio. The email detailed Penn State’s desire to host two local high schools the day in between the Nittany Lions’ pair of “Return to Rec” games.
Althouse looked at his schedule, and realized his Rams were playing the Red Raiders that day anyway. So he called up Moore and Clark, gauged their interest, and the two schools sent in a bid for the game, which was approved.
“It just kind of fell in our laps,” Moore said.
And she’s happy it did.
When the athletic directors told their coaches and players, there was a palpable buzz about the event.
The coaches were amped, and so were the players. Even if some of the history might go over the players’ heads.
“I don’t think any of these players were alive when they played basketball in Rec Hall,” Althouse said with a laugh.
He’s probably right. Rec Hall hosted Penn State basketball from 1929 until 1996, when the Nittany Lions moved to the Bryce Jordan Center.
Even still, the athletic directors said their athletes are appreciative of the opportunity and want to soak in the experience, whether that’s helped by a quick Google search or it’s walking around the concourse to see pictures of Penn State basketball teams from the 1930s and 1940s.
The reach of these games extends past the players, too. It’s a chance for members of both basketball communities to see something special — and maybe take a trip down memory lane.
“Around here, if you were born and raised, that’s where all the games were,” Moore said. “So it’ll be a little nostalgic.”
As for the actual logistics, both athletic departments expect things to run smoothly.
For Althouse, he’s had the opportunity to work with an old friend.
Althouse, a former development coordinator for the Nittany Lion Club, said it’s been a positive experience organizing the event with Loren Crispell, Penn State’s marketing manager for basketball.
Clark and Moore, too, said Penn State officials have been more than helpful throughout the process.
“There have been a lot of people from Penn State who have walked us through this,” Clark said. “What we need, where we’re going to be, parking, tickets. ... There’s been a lot of coordination on their part, steering us in the right direction.”
Penns Valley and Bellefonte’s officials believe the high school version of “Return to Rec” will be a hit among players, coaches, fans and the community.
In fact, Althouse hopes this will open up future events on campus.
“If there’s an opportunity in other sports to play at Penn State facilities, this might wet our whistle for that,” Althouse said. “We’d welcome that opportunity.”
Perhaps a football game in Beaver Stadium?
“We might have more trouble filling that than having a nice crowd at Rec Hall,” Althouse chuckled. “Not holding my breath for that.”
Instead, he’s looking forward to Friday’s doubleheader.
Just like many others in the community.