A passion for sport and entertainment in Happy Valley

Fritz Smith, Joe Battista and Scott Sidwell present the Happy Valley Sports and Entertainment Commission during a press conference on November 16, 2021 at Beaver Stadium. Photo courtesy of Happy Valley Adventure Bureau

I had the honor to participate in an exciting announcement last Tuesday afternoon at a press conference at Beaver Stadium Media Center. Sitting alongside Happy Valley Adventure Bureau President and CEO Fritz Smith and Penn State Assistant Athletic Director Scott Sidwell, we publicly announced the formation of the new Happy Valley Sports and Entertainment Commission. In my new role as Chairman of the Board, I am delighted to bring my passion for Center County and the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau to this initiative which we believe will benefit the entire region.

Why is this and why now? The simple answer is this: it just makes “sense” and “cents”. I have been a member of the community since 1978, and my family and I have enjoyed the many blessings of participating in what Center County has to offer in terms of sports and entertainment. Now is the perfect time to formalize what has already been a successful partnership between the many actors who share a passion for the deep history of sport and entertainment in our valley.

Personally, I was drawn to this initiative because of the win-win goals and fun people I will spend time with as we help build our region’s already excellent reputation as a destination for families and individuals. seeking to enjoy our many treasures. . Yes, there is definitely an economic objective for the board. I think this is a great goal as we bring joy to people in return for the many benefits our region will derive for the money they spend on our local businesses including our hotels, restaurants and outlets at detail.

My own personal vision statement is perfectly aligned with the goals of the Happy Valley Sports and Entertainment Commission: “To inspire and help people live joyful and fulfilling lives while serving others first. Form partnerships with other “enthusiasts” to have a positive impact for the common good. ” Because I have spent most of my career in youth, college and professional sport as a coach, instructor, administrator and facility manager, I am especially happy to collaborate with others again ” enthusiasts ”who bring joy to others through sport and entertainment.

As you drive through our county, wherever you go you will see athletic fields and venues that we hope will help coordinate for maximum use to host tournaments, showcases, state, regional and national competitions, clinics and camps, including the world famous Camp Woodward. Our goal will be to respect the primary function and audience of each area while collaborating, cooperating and making compromises for the greater good of the county. Oh yes there will be challenges, but with the right people seated around the right table at the right time, we can create magic for everyone’s benefit.

It’s no secret that one of my favorite projects is to see an NHL game at Beaver Stadium. However, I prefer a “Stadium Series” game to the Winter Classic. The Winter Classic is better known, but it’s always played on New Years Day, which creates a high risk of conflict with the Penn State football team playing a bowling alley at this time of year. I firmly believe that we can host a Stadium Series game and that it can be a huge success at a time when we can muster the resources to make it happen. Because we need to ‘winterize’ Beaver Stadium, I would suggest that the solution is to target the week after the Big Ten Football Championship (second week of December) as the weather should be cold enough to maintain quality ice while still allowing a safe trip to the Region. A regular season Penguins vs. Flyers game at Beaver Stadium will be a very attractive destination event. Add outdoor games on the same weekend for our Penn State varsity men’s and women’s hockey teams and the sports world will once again be centered on Center County. The motto of my company is “Dream Big. Keep your feet on the ground. Do it! You can bet that I will do everything I can to make this dream come true.

But wait, it’s better, because the commission is not one-dimensional; it’s also about showcasing the region’s vast potential entertainment offerings. Consider the possibilities to bring together the collective wisdom of the people who organize the Grange Fair, the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, the Central PA 4th Fest, the Ag Progress Days, the People’s Choice Festival, and the musical and theatrical events held in the many fields. theaters and entertainment venues.

Let me brag a little about the success of one of our flagship sites celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Bryce Jordan Center, and my good friend Al Karosas, the CEO of BJC. My family and I have been lucky enough to see headliners and shows including Elton John & Billy Joel, Neil Diamond, Whitney Houston, Sesame Street Live, NSYNC, Brittany Spears, Jim Gaffigan, Walking with Dinosaurs, The Jonas Brothers , Jeff Dunham and Garth Brooks. By the way, the rumors that Garth and his team are playing hockey with us from midnight to 3 a.m. are true and yes, Garth drove the Zamboni!

Al Karosas recently told me, “The success of attracting future events is correlated with how the community supports our shows. The support has been incredible over the years. We compete to host events with larger population centers, so we need to make the customer experience exceptional. Our staff have been great in providing great customer service and that’s a big reason we can bring great acts and shows. “

In addition to the Penn State Men’s and Women’s Basketball Games and the Ohio State Wrestling Game, the BJC will host Cirque Dreams: Holidaze on December 16 and the already sold out Billie Eilish “Happier Than Ever, The World Tour on February 10. Upcoming events include the Harlem Globetrotters, Winter Jam 2022 and comedian Bert Kreischer. Country singer Kane Brown recently seduced a Bryce Jordan Crowded Center and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra has once again brought its unique brand of entertainment to Center County.

So imagine the following scenes, which frequently take place in our Happy Valley Sports and Entertainment zip codes. Last Friday morning, I had the pleasure of welcoming the Tuscarora 11 Intermediate Unit CTC Superintendents and Directors for my Pragmatic Passion program on “Resilience, Change and Endurance”. It was great to see friends Dr Shawn Kovac, Tracy Hinish and Tim Miller and to meet attendees who traveled from Warfordsburg, Huntingdon, Mount Union and elsewhere in the region to attend the function. We held it at Windswept Farms Farm cafe, owned and operated by my old friend Duke Gastiger. After a wonderful lunch, we took the group to the Pegula Ice Arena for a visit.

Members of Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 11 visit the Pegula ice rink. Photo by Joe Battista

Later that evening, former college roommate Jim Zarnick, who was coming from Ashburn, Va. For the football game, and I stopped by the BJC to enjoy the 25th Anniversary Show of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. . As I stood in the pre-show line, I realized the gentleman standing right in front of me was Tim Miller from Intermediate Unit 11, who stayed to enjoy the show.

This was my third time seeing TSO at BJC, and they always help get me into the holiday spirit. The choreography, the play of light and the special effects never disappoint. Brian Hicks, the narrator of the Christmas-themed show, has a voice of James Earl Jones that gave me chills. TSO’s interpretation of “Old City Bar” literally brought tears to my eyes. Then we joined friends Chris and Mark Woytowich at the Hi Way Pizza Pub for a drink. Do our part to stimulate the local economy!

On Saturday, we gathered with friends before the Penn State Football game and enjoyed the festivities that honored our military. Was anyone else impressed with the balance of our rookie QB Christian Veilleux? How about Veilleux’s Canadian connection to Malick Meiga for a touchdown? Finally, Sunday morning we visited the Pegula Ice Arena to see my nephew Nicholas Battista. He brought his U-14 women’s hockey team to Happy Valley to play against State College. I heard the ladies talk about a trip to the dairy before I got home.

Not a bad weekend to practice what we preach, eh?

For my part, as chairman of the commission, I will be reaching out to my friends, athletic administrators and business owners in the community for ideas and recruit volunteers to help do the magic. What do I like most about this business? Ultimately everyone wins and we can have fun in the process.