At Season's Midpoint, Downtown Economy Holding Strong
Fall in Happy Valley has arrived and Penn State football's 2012 season is halfway through, with only three games left to play in Beaver Stadium.
In fact, autumn can be felt everywhere. The leaves on the trees are changing from summer's green to autumn's oranges, yellows and browns. The air has a chill to it. Midterms have started for Penn State students. Homecoming royalty has been crowned.
Nearly three months ago, when Penn State was dealt its sanctions by the NCAA, many people wondered whether its reach would stretch past the players, coaches and staff and into the State College community. They lost scholarships, was fined $60 million, banned from postseason play for four years, and vacated wins from 1998-2011.
Penn State merchandise sales – football merchandise in particular – was speculated to take a dramatic drop. Many expressed concern for businesses in downtown State College that rely on football season to stay open the rest of the year.
John Lindo, manager at the Student Bookstore, 330 E. College Ave., said sales don't seem out of the ordinary.
"I would say they're normal," he said. "I think this year will be fine."
Lindo said that the "next couple years" are what might show a decrease in revenue but said he wasn't overly concerned. Joe Paterno merchandise has kept its popularity, too.
"We do have people that come in and ask for it," Lindo said. "It was a lot more popular when it was topical, but we do still sell it."
Betsey Howell, executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Convention & Visitor's Bureau, said that most of the hotels in the area have been "on par" with previous years' numbers and have been booked on weekends, whether it be for football games or events such as Homecoming and Parent's Weekend.
She said that there are still rooms available in many area hotels for the last two weekends of football season, but that's "not unusual."
"It's pretty normal because the last two games are over Thanksgiving and it's late November when the weather is colder," Howell said.
Jill Shockey at Penn State's University Relations said that the bookings at Penn State's two hotels, the Nittany Lion Inn and the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center, have maintained typical rates of reservations.
"October was really strong," she said.
Shockey said hotels in the area experience a "soft" period over the winter months where fewer guests come to stay in State College.
Weather, holidays and sporting events are just some of the factors that can affect sales and customer traffic, according to George Arnold, executive director of the State College Downtown Improvement District.
He said that many businesses have experienced a rough time overall, because of the recession that started in 2008. Arnold said November's presidential election is not only important but so influential because the candidate elected to office will have an impact on the economy – specifically on how much a business is taxed.
Laura Sweeny, who works for Old State Clothing Co., 101 E. Beaver Ave., said special weekends, such as Homecoming, can often sway revenue.
"Sales were a lot better over homecoming," she said. "And the fact that we won the game didn't hurt."