Seeking to bring nationally known sporting events to Pennsylvania, $5 million in grants are being awarded through the Department of Community and Economic Development’s Sports Marketing and Tourism Program.
Funding was announced Thursday by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Rick Siger.
The Ironman Triathlon, U.S. Open women’s and men’s golf, and World Cup, scheduled to take place in Pennsylvania this year and over the next three years, are all expected to greatly impact the state’s economy.
“Pennsylvania is hosting a series of incredibly exciting events in the coming years, and I’m thrilled that we can support some of them through this program,” Siger said in a statement.
The Sports Marketing and Tourism Program was established to attract high-quality, amateur, and professional sporting and e-sports events to Pennsylvania. Investment in the program is geared to capitalizing on increased tourism that accompanies the hosting of major national or international sporting events.
Program grants have been awarded to the following organizations:
Happy Valley Adventure Bureau was awarded $70,000 for the 2023 Ironman 70.3 Triathlon in State College.
The United States Golf Association (USGA) was awarded a total of $2.43 million; $1.215 million for the 2025 United States Men’s Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont and $1.215 for the 2024 United States Women’s Open at the Lancaster Country Club in Lancaster.
Philadelphia Soccer was awarded $2.5 million for the 2026 World Cup, with matches to be held at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
“The commonwealth will be at the center of the sports world at events like the 2026 World Cup, where it’s estimated at least 450,000 people will visit our state from around the world, providing a tremendous boost to the economy,” said Siger.
The Philadelphia Eagles’ abundance of riches goes beyond the talent that takes the field on National Football League game days.
The National Football Conference Eastern Division champions and top seed in the NFC playoffs, the Eagles are listed No. 10 on the list of America’s richest sports franchises, according to a new research study conducted by Sidelines.io.
The Eagles earned the final spot in the top 10 with a valuation of $4.9 billion, revenue of $547 million, and a Rich Index of 14.77. Sidelines.io notes that team owner Jeff Lurie’s franchise has an average wage bill compared to the rest of the league but it’s less than other teams in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB.
Founded in 2017, Sidelines.io provides sports betting odds and comparison. Its site states that Sidelines boasts “one of the most extensive and inclusive odds comparison platforms” on the legal market.
“Sports in America has become a very lucrative business for investors and owners over the years,” a spokesperson for Sidelines said in a statement. “There has been exponential growth in the value of teams and the money they are able to invest in players and state-of-the-art stadiums and facilities, which only further secures the idea that sports in America is going to continue to grow and become even more popular.”
The study conducted by Sidelines.io included franchises in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB. It analyzed each franchise’s value, annual revenue, and the total money spent on player payroll. Each team received a score out of 10 for each factor and was then totaled to produce a score on the Rich Index. The higher the score, the richer the franchise.
The Eagles’ rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, ranked No. 1 on the list with an estimated worth of $8 billion. Team owner Jerry Jones’ club also boasts the highest average attendance with 86,000 fans filling AT&T Stadium on game days. The Cowboys’ annual revenue exceeds $1 billion, and they have a $162 million payroll, which has increased in 2023 to $214 million. The Cowboys lead all teams with a Rich Index of 23.45.
The dynastic New England Patriots, who have six Super Bowl victories, rank second with a Rich Index of 17.34, and the New York Yankees, whose 27 world championships are the highest in American sports, are third at 16.39. The reigning Super Bowl-champion Los Angeles Rams rank fourth (15.90), followed by the New York Giants (15.64), whom the Eagles host this Saturday night in the NFL’s Divisional round of playoffs.
The remainder of the top 10 lists the Washington Commanders (15.46) at No. 6, followed by the New York Jets (15.27), San Francisco 49ers (15.14), Los Angeles Dodgers (14.77), and the Eagles.
Pennsylvania on Wednesday became the 21st state in the country to approve NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) on the high school level.
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) voted 25-4 Wednesday in a meeting in Mechanicsburg to allow scholastic athletes to maintain amateur status and accept compensation for the commercial use of their NIL. The motion to approve passed in its third and final reading. It was first proposed in July and passed in a second reading in October.
The ruling took effect immediately and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that within hours Laurel Highlands High School senior football star and West Virginia University commit Rodney Gallagher took to Instagram and announced the PIAA’s first NIL deal to his 99,000 followers.
The Tribune-Review reported that Gallagher’s deal is with The Pavement Group, a paving contractor founded by a graduate of Laurel Highlands High School.
Three of the four votes against the NIL deal were registered by high schools in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL). Reportedly concerned with new expectations now facing schools and their athletic departments and how NIL deals are managed, three WPIAL representatives voted against the motion, as did a rep for the state’s athletic directors.
The PIAA ruling allows high school athletes to gain compensation for social media presence, product advertisement, commercial endorsements, and promotional activities. At the same time, no NIL deals or payments can be arranged by high school employees or persons associated with high schools. The list includes administrators, alumni, booster clubs, and coaches.
PIAA guidelines prohibit students from referencing the PIAA, a PIAA school, or its moniker. The PIAA also prohibits students displaying school’s team logos, wearing school uniforms, or donning school-associated apparel. The wearing of NIL-associated insignia, logo, or identifying mark during team or school activities is also prohibited by the PIAA.
Regarding the possibility of athletes being recruited through NIL opportunities, the PIAA motion states that contracts and agreements “need to come from analysis of the value an athlete brings for providing a specific service/activity, not an incentive for enrollment decisions or membership on a team.”
The PIAA declared seven categories of products or services off-limits to students:
Casinos and gambling
Controlled dangerous substances
Opioids or prescription drugs
Tobacco or electronic cigarettes
Weapons, firearms, or ammunition
Students planning an NIL deal must notify their school’s athletic director or principal within 72 hours. PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi cautioned high school students to be careful when considering accepting compensation for their NIL. To that end, the PIAA is seeking a source to work with to aid in NIL education, with Team Advance of Philadelphia reportedly being considered.
Lombardi called it “phase 2” of the process. Establishing a policy constituted the first phase, and the PIAA is now seeking what he called “an educational advisory component” to aid athletes and their families. Lombardi added that he expects the second phase to be accomplished in a short time.
In allowing NIL compensation for high school athletes, Pennsylvania joins Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, and Washington, and the District of Columbia.
Harrisburg-based Stronger Youth Brands, a youth sports and enrichment platform, has acquired Little Kickers, an international franchiser of youth soccer programs headquartered in the United Kingdom, for an undisclosed price.
Established in 2002, Little Kickers operates in 340 territories across the UK, Canada, Australia and other countries. This acquisition creates the largest global franchised youth soccer platform, with over 400 franchisees and 600 territories across 30 countries. Little Kickers will continue to operate as a standalone brand and gain access to additional resources as part of Stronger Youth Brands.
Backed by Susquehanna Private Capital, a middle market private equity firm, Stronger Youth Brands was launched in January with SPC’s platform investment in youth soccer franchiser Soccer Shots.
Stronger Youth Brands pursues partnerships with youth enrichment franchisers focused on such areas as sports, music, STEM, tutoring, arts and cooking.
Soccer Shots’ CEO, Justin Bredeman, said in a release, “We are thrilled to welcome Little Kickers into our growing family of leading youth enrichment franchisers. … The Little Kickers team (has) built an outstanding, loyal franchise system with a primary focus on creating a healthy growth experience for every child through sports, fun and developmentally appropriate curriculum. We look forward to leveraging their scale and expertise as we continue to expand Stronger Youth Brands.”
Christine Kelly, Little Kickers’ founder and chairman, added: “We are pleased to join Stronger Youth Brands, whose impressive growth in franchised sports programs and devotion to youth enrichment are powerful complements to Little Kickers. We have known the Soccer Shots team for years and share a common ethos. We are confident that Little Kickers will continue to thrive and further its legacy as part of the platform.”
Harrisburg is seeking a $6 million grant from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program to help pay for upgrades to FNB Field, home of minor league baseball’s Harrisburg Senators.
Matt Maisel, the city’s director of communications, said via email that the overall project cost is $12 million. If and when the RACP money is received, “we will figure out the rest as part of a three-way partnership between city, county and (ball)club. We will not do bonds.”
The improvements are needed because Major League Baseball has changed its requirements for player development spaces, including clubhouse size, commissary areas, weight rooms, meeting rooms, storage, training rooms, female staff facilities, etc., Maisel explained.
So to become compliant with the new standards, FNB Field must undergo some upgrades.
The RACP website said the City of Harrisburg’s application mentions that the $6 million would be used for new field lighting and renovation of existing locker rooms; a new building, on stilts, inside the stadium perimeter that will serve as the new home team clubhouse; an expanded boardwalk to provide more area for more activities and local organizations to have concourse tables during games; and scoreboard replacement.
The new Senators’ clubhouse will be at street level on the third base side where the kids’ play area currently is, Maisel said. Also, it will be raised out of the flood plain. The play area will be moved elsewhere within the ballpark.
He said the existing clubhouse footprint houses both teams but will be repurposed to support the visiting team as the Senators’ squad moves to its new accommodation.
The Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funds are incredibly vital to the project, Maisel said. “The No. 1 goal is for the Senators to remain home in Harrisburg on City Island. We’re fortunate to have a great relationship with the county where they may be able to help out some, but we need the state to come to the table as well and pitch in. It’s ultimately too soon to tell if this will happen with or without state funding.”
In addition to being the home venue for the Senators, FNB Field hosts baseball games played by Central Penn College and numerous high schools as well.
To call the Rev. Mark Kearse a “people person” is an understatement.
“You show yourself a friend to me, I’ll talk to you about anything,” said Kearse, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in York.
So when the chance arose to invest in the York Revolution – the hometown minor league baseball club that competes in the independent Atlantic League – as a community owner, he saw tremendous opportunity.
Kearse is one of a handful of Black investors in the Revolution, and he sees this new role as providing a platform to show younger generations, particularly persons of color, that the sky’s the limit.
It also allows him, as a sort of team ambassador, to engage with the public, where Kearse excels.
He is one of nine investors, all with significant York connections, recently added to the ownership group. The others are Robert Lambert, Dommonick Chatman, John Klinedinst, Rebecca Countess, Jeff and Cindy Lobach, David and Linda Davidson, John and Denise Gilliland, and William Yanavitch.
They join 13 other fan owners and Bill Shipley, the team’s chairman and majority owner.
“It’s a really neat concept,” Kearse said. “It allows the community to be more engaged.”
Ownership of sports franchises and major companies is usually only available to the few, with African Americans, other minorities and women often shut out.
“This provides a template for what can be done,” he said.
Diversifying ownership brings a different perspective, Kearse said, and shows “our ability to move up is possible.”
As a community owner of the York Revolution, he wants to mentor the next generation, to be an example of what’s possible, to encourage these youth to dream.
Being able to do that “was a big factor for me” in becoming an investor, Kearse said.
Raised in York city, he felt the call to ministry at age 23 after serving his country in the Navy. Kearse has been pastor at Cornerstone since 2009 and recently graduated with a doctorate from Ashland Theological Seminary.
“Because I’m a pastor, I specialize in telling a story – it’s what I do every Sunday,” he said.
Behind the scenes, Kearse is an investor; but his public role as a team ambassador is what he most enjoys.
“I wear a lot of Revolution T-shirts and hats,” he said.
And because that’s not his normal attire, people ask questions.
Engaging with the public “really fits my personality,” Kearse said.
A relationship-focused business
York Revolution President Eric Menzer said the fan ownership option was born in 2018, when the club faced a major stadium renovation.
Rather than borrow money, the team decided instead to raise funds through community investors. And that germ of an idea has since turned into 20-some fan owners.
“I think we are in a pretty limited category,” he said, with the Green Bay Packers the most famous U.S. sports franchise with this type of ownership.
In a press release announcing the nine newest investors, majority owner Shipley, chairman of Shipley Energy, noted that it’s rare for sports clubs with large ownership groups to be “explicitly and completely tied into the local community.”
“It has become a very valuable tool for us,” Menzer said, to have this whole army of team ambassadors.
“Ours is a relationship-focused business,” he said, so this is a tremendous benefit that goes well beyond the investors’ financial contributions.
Menzer said the Revolution “has tried to move beyond the usual suspects” in bringing community owners onboard who are more ethnically, racially and otherwise diverse.
What they have in common is “deep roots in or a demonstrated commitment to York – or both,” he said. “That’s how we operate.” The Revolution plays its home games at PeoplesBank Park in the Arch Street neighborhood of York.
The 2022 tax season is nearing its end, meaning that accounting firms will begin to empty as staff earn a much-needed break from extended hours and crunch time leading up to Tax Day on April 18th.
For Robin Alexander and Michael Andrews, the last day of the lengthy tax season will offer no such break — instead, the two certified public accountants will be hitting foot to pavement for 26.2 miles in the Boston Marathon.
Both Andrews and Alexander work for Lancaster-based CPA accounting and business consulting firm, RKL — Alexander as a senior manager of tax services at the firm’s Harrisburg office and Andrews as a tax manager in York.
The two accountants are very familiar with the grueling work hours and high-stress environment of the season, which can result in 60-to-65-hour work weeks.
“My family knows when January hits that they won’t hear from me or see me as much,” said Alexander. “You eat breathe and sleep it. I pretty much usually eat three meals at my desk.”
“Because of the pandemic, we haven’t had a normal tax season in a few years,” said Andrews. “It’s like drinking from a fire hose. There is a lot coming at you.”
Despite the stressful season, the two runners decided to add training for the famous marathon to their schedules.
To be admitted into the marathon, runners must hit a qualifying time based on their age and gender in another outdoor marathon within a year of the Boston Marathon.
Qualifying for the event and having a chance to apply is an opportunity that was hard to ignore for Alexander and Andrews, even knowing that their training would directly come into odds with tax season.
Alexander has always been an athlete but took up running during the pandemic. The activity helped her get out of the house and proved to be a great stress reliever, said the CPA and runner.
She did her first half marathon in October 2020 and her first full marathon in 2021, in which she immediately qualified for the Boston Marathon.
“I was going to do one marathon just to prove I could do it. I qualified for Boston and said I have to do it,” she said. “It is a much easier decision when it is October or November, and you aren’t in the busy tax season.”
Andrews began running marathons in 2014, but had yet to meet a qualifying time, until joining a training group recommended to him by a client. In 2021 he joined the group, which helped him take 13 minutes off his time and qualify for Boston.
A long-time runner, Andrews said that he starts runs at 4:30 a.m. and is back home by 5:45 a.m.
“Once you are back, it’s a great way to start your day,” he said. “Runner’s high is real.”
Andrews took his role at RKL in November and qualified for Boston later that month. He said he was nervous about telling leadership a month into his new role that he would need the last weekend before the tax season deadline off.
“I didn’t know what the reaction would be. The deadline date is the day of the marathon and I planned to go on the Saturday before. It has been nothing but supportive,” said Andrews, adding that as a runner, the Boston Marathon is a difficult event to decline. “What if I get hurt or I never have a qualifying time again? It is probably something I won’t do every season, but if you get your first qualifying time, you have got to do it.”
Both Andrews and Alexander said that their company’s leadership has been particularly supportive of their training and the fact that they won’t be available on Tax Day. However, that doesn’t mean that adding training to the long workdays of the tax season has been easy.
For Alexander, that means an additional 10 hours a week of training on top of her 60 to 65 hours of work.
“My boyfriend knows he will see me if he runs with me,” she said. “We competed in a half marathon so he could see me. Either he sees me when I run or when I’m working.”
Andrews gets most of his training done early in the morning. He said he drinks a lot of coffee to get through the entire day.
The training has proven to be a challenging time commitment, but he said that it has had unforeseen benefits.
“I get to wake up with my daughter and have breakfast with her. When I woke up later, it wasn’t just the two of us,” he said. “I also sleep pretty well at night.”
A major reason as to why the combination of training and work has worked for the two professionals is because of the flexibility of remote work. If Alexander wants to get her run in at two or if Andrews needs to get some work done at night, they can do that.
Andrews and Alexander connected through their shared love for running. The comradery of knowing someone else is going through the same vigorous training has been a big help, said Alexander.
“Even if we aren’t going on runs together, it’s cool to have something in common,” she said. “If Michael can get up at 4:30 a.m., I can do it.”
In an effort to bring more corporate travel to the region, Discover Lancaster has partnered with Lancaster Airport’s main commercial carrier to pay for round trip flights of qualified meeting planners from Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh.
Discover Lancaster announced this week that it will be offering free flights in partnership with Southern Airways Express through March and April to meeting and convention planners to visit and plan events throughout the county.
The new program comes at a time where social and leisure travel has picked back up in Lancaster County, but corporate and business travel continues to lag, said Edward Harris, president and CEO of Discover Lancaster.
Lodging revenue has bounced back dramatically with Lancaster County hotels earning an increased 28.6% in revenue in January 2022 compared to January 2019, according to Discover Lancaster.
Those numbers can be attributed to leisure travel as well as sports travel, particularly for tournaments at Spooky Nook Sports in Lancaster, the largest indoor sports complex of its kind in the country.
Group travel, such as meetings and conventions, once made up for 40% of overnight stays in the county and currently rest at 16%.
“We are actually among a handful of destinations that are ahead of the curve in terms of tourism returning to our destination,” said Harris. “Unfortunately, the corporate meeting groups dwindled during the pandemic. We were hit very hard, and they are just starting to show signs of returning.”
Planners for corporate events, meetings and conventions generally plan their larger events within six months to a year and a half in advance, said Harris. By offering meeting planners in Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh free flights to Lancaster in the next two months, Lancaster’s hotels could begin to see a strong return in corporate groups later in 2022.
This is particularly important for the region’s hotels, which generally rely on business visits for their weekday traffic and the off season.
“Corporate visitors come between Sunday and Thursday night and in the fall spring and winter when kids are back at school. That isn’t when leisure travels,” said Stephen Sikking, general partner with the Eden Resort and Suites in Lancaster.
Many of Eden’s offerings cater specifically to the corporate crowd. The hotel has seen a return to day meetings but has yet to see businesses plan two-to-three-day meetings where they would previously invite regional or national clients or employees for training purposes, said Sikking.
Sikking added that he has heard from a number of companies that they are looking at returning to in-person meetings when their teams are comfortable travelling again. He said that the partnership between Southern Airways and Discover Lancaster could help organizations realize that the region is ready to go and open for business.
“These groups would find this area enjoyable and practical and hopefully we can get some new eyes in the area and get some new business coming to the market,” said Sikking. “Pittsburgh and Washington D.C. are great corporate hubs. It will be a big lift for the entire market if we can get some new or existing businesses.”
Discover Lancaster has rolled out the program through a digital marketing campaign that includes advertising on the websites of the Washington Business Journal and the Pittsburgh Business Times, targeted placements through Lancaster-based social media agency Click Upon and targeted e-blasts from Meetings Today to 2,000 planners in both cities.
“Southern has been Lancaster’s ‘hometown’ airline for almost a decade and we’re excited to be involved in this initiative. Our fast flights from Pittsburgh and Washington-Dulles will make it easy for meeting planners to ‘Discover Lancaster’ as the perfect destination for their next event,” said Mark Cestari, chief commercial officer at Southern Airways Express.
Karns Performance, a sports bike shop, has closed on an SBA 504 loan to buy 5203 E. Trindle Road, Hampden Township, a building it had rented since December 2010.
The news was announced by the Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC. Established in January 2000 by brothers Dan and Jason Karns, the business specializes in engine building and dyno services.
“When this building was being sold, we knew we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to purchase it,” Owner Dan Karns said in a release. “By owning this building, we are able to keep control of our expenses and stay in the location that our customers have grown to know us in.”
Through the $273,000 loan, completed with the assistance of M&T Bank, “we can give Karns Performance a sense of stability and security by owning their own building,” added Melissa Stone, vice president of economic development with the Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC.
The loan took second mortgage position behind M&T’s first mortgage of $331,425. The borrower’s equity requirements were 10% of the total project.
CREDC works with SeedCo PA to help businesses in the region access the program. A certified development company, SeedCo PA is recognized as a top SBA 504 lender in the area.
SBA 504 loans provide up to $5 million in long-term, fixed-rate financing to eligible and qualified small businesses for major fixed assets that promote business growth and job creation, the release explained
Legalized gaming in Pennsylvania had a record year in 2021, with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board reporting revenue increases in nearly every sector of the industry.
For the year, the combined revenue of slot machines, table games, sports wagering, iGaming, video gaming terminals (VGTs) and fantasy contests totaled $4.7 billion compared to $2.7 billion in 2020. This also resulted in record tax revenue production from gaming of more than $1.93 billion.
The Board did note that the significant year-over-year increase in gaming revenue was impacted by closures and safety measures at casinos related to COVID-19 during 2020. Total closure days in 2020 were 1,473 compared to 44 days in 2021.
Statewide, slots were up 68.71% to $2.3 billion. Table games were up 83.4% over 2020, taking in $925 million.
2021 revenue from sports wagering was $340 million, a 79.29% increase in revenue when compared to the $190 million generated in 2020. Sports wagering handle, the amount wagered through both retail and online, was $6.55 billion, an 83% increase over 2020’s handle of $3.58 billion.
2021 revenue from fantasy contests was $29.3 million, a 38.54% increase in revenue when compared to the $21.2 million generated in 2020.
2021 revenue for iGaming was $1.1 billion an 96.7% increase in revenue when compared to the $566 million generated in 2020. At the end of 2021 there were 10 iGaming certificate holders in Pennsylvania.
While a smaller source of revenue, video game terminals, found in truck stops, did have a significant increase in 2021.
2021 revenue for VGTs at Truck Stops was $40 million a 139% increase in revenue when compared to the $17 million generated in 2010. By the end of the year there were 60 VGT facilities in Pennsylvania.
York-based professional baseball team York Revolution recently added seven new members to its ownership team.
The new owners include Anthony Moore and Fred Walker of York real estate development firm Four Squares Development. They are joining the team’s eight previous owners as well as Bill Shipley, chairman and majority owner of York Revolution.
Moore and Walker, both partners at the minority- and veteran-owned Four Squares, said in this week’s announcement they look forward to investing in their hometown team and want to draw a more diverse audience.
“We want to ensure that our local York City community feels welcome at PeoplesBank Park, so we’re excited to engage in attracting a more diverse audience around the love of baseball and community,” said Walker.
Adding owners to the team strengthens York Revolution’s ability to present its product to the public, according to Eric Menzer, the team’s president.
“These owners have business and community wisdom and experience that’s invaluable to us in making the Revolution successful well beyond the baseball field,” he said. “We are focused on building unshakable, long-term community partnerships and continually reaching new audiences in York, and all of these individuals help us do so.”
Spooky Nook Sports inked its first tenant in the 1 million-plus-square-foot sports complex it’s building in Hamilton, Ohio.
Municipal Brew Works will open a tap room and small batch brewing facility with just over 5,000 square feet, according to a release, with seating for more than 100 patrons offering a view of the brewing area, the Great Miami River and access to the riverside patio.
Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill broke ground in 2018 and will be the largest indoor sports complex in North America, the release said. For tenants, about 60,000 square feet in the former Champion Mill paper mill building are available for rent.
As more of the old structure is repaired, remodeled and rebuilt, Spooky Nook Sports, based in Manheim, has begun identifying restaurants and retail tenants.
“We are still seeking a few restaurant, experiential retail and/or a salon partners for leasing opportunities at Champion Mill,” Dave McLain, general counsel/director of real estate development at The Nook, said in the release.
The Nook “couldn’t be more excited about our partnership with Municipal Brew Works,” he added. “Their ownership group shares our vision of creating incredible places for people to gather in Hamilton.”
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