I'm writing this post because I'm hearing a lot of people make the claim that sanctions crippling or ending football at Penn State will destory Happy Valley's economy. I believe these statements are wrong.
I grew up in Kent, Ohio. While Kent State is a MAC school in terms of sports, its enrollment is roughly the size of a Big East or Big Ten school. If you go to downtown Kent, you’ll find a flurry of construction as well as shops, bars, and restaurants. Why? Because Kent is home to more the 30,000 students, who are visited by an exponentially greater amount of parents, relatives, and friends every weekend –not just in the autumn. Similarly, KSU is the largest employer in the county creating middle and upper-middle class residents in the area. That’s what supporting the economy, not football.
Think about it, if your business model is depends on 6-7 Saturdays a year and all you’re doing is selling food and t-shirts, you’re doomed no matter how good the Nittany Lions are. (I’ve never been to Happy Valley, but I assume most PSU fans aren’t shopping for high-end cloths and jewelry on game day). No business owner- not even in Happy Valley- is going to bet on football Saturdays as the corner-stone of his or her business. Most “t-shirt shops” in college towns are actually text books and school supply stores; they just sell apparel to make extra revenue during the months when students aren’t buying text books for the upcoming term. Similarly, restaurants and stores are viable not because of an out-of-town crowd that comes in a few times a year, but because of a huge student body and faculty that needs to eat and shop all year round.
Simply put, you’d have to get rid of Pennsylvania State University to destroy the economy of Happy Valley. Getting rid of football will just mean that a few food trucks and port-a-potty distributors will set up at two or three more country fairs instead of Penn State football games, and a few less people will be stopping at Hardee's on their way in to town. The bars might even do better on weekends if the students don’t have a football game to go to.
To conclude, this is true for sports in general. Franchises and stadiums don't really grow or improve an economy because they don't provide a lot of permanent middle and high income jobs. They might shift buinesses, such as restaraunts and bars, from one area of the city to another as owners will seek to capitalize on the increased traffic, but they won't create more commerce on the whole.
I've never been to Happy Valley so, admittedly, I'm just usuing my own experience as a mesuring stick. If anyone has any more insight on football-related commerce at Penn State or on the topic in general, I'd appreciate your comments.