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State College Business Owners Remain Upbeat Despite Harsh NCAA Sanctions

by on July 27, 2012 11:30 AM

Despite heavy sanctions from the NCAA leveled against the Penn State football program Monday, business owners in downtown State College don't seem worried about it having a negative economic impact.

“I think the local businesses will be OK,” said Mike Desmond, co-owner of Hotel State College for 26 years. “We're probably going to take a dent, but this is Penn State. People here are real fans and they love their football.”

Hotel State College operates several businesses in town, including the Allen Street Grill, The Corner Room, Zeno's Pub, Bill Pickle's Tap Room, Indigo and Chumley's.

Desmond believes that as long as the Nittany Lions are competitive, fans will still flock to Happy Valley for eight Saturdays a year — bowl ban or not.

“We've got a great team and a Super Bowl coach,” Desmond said. “Maybe I'm just being optimistic, but I don't think we'll see a drop in fan support. We've got 110,000 seats and I think the majority of the fans will still come out.”

And by coming out on a Penn State football Saturday, fans will be pumping money into the local economy whether it be at bars, restaurants, apparel shops or hotels.

Many business owners believe that the NCAA spared State College from the economic disaster that would have come as a result of the death penalty, which would have shut down the football program for four seasons.

Pat Daugherty, owner of The Tavern restaurant, found the silver lining in all of the clouds hovering over Happy Valley these days.

“My feeling is that there were a lot of reasons why the school consented to the NCAA without appeal,” Daugherty said. “One of those reasons was to avoid the death penalty. Everyone realizes that they're going to be affected in one way or another, but I think that we'll come out of this fine.”

Make no mistake about it — the seven or so Saturdays that Penn State plays at Beaver Stadium are a boon economically. After 110,000 fans cheer on the Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium, they pour into downtown State College to buy merchandise, eat, drink and be merry.

The football program sustained an unprecedented blow on Monday as the university agreed to a massive $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban and a reduction in scholarships.

Many wonder if that will impact the number of fans in the stands at Beaver Stadium.

Penn State has ranked near the top nationally in terms of attendance. According to the university's website, Penn State has ranked no lower than fourth nationally in average attendance since 1991.

Daugherty believes those numbers will stay high because Penn State fans are devoted to the university.

“I'm a firm believer that playing sports makes people better students. Now is the time to get behind these student athletes and support them because we are Penn State,” Daugherty said.

The death penalty probably would have forced some businesses to lay off workers. It may have caused some to close their doors.

“I employ a lot of students. A ban would have definitely affected those part-time employees and probably some of my full-time employees as well,” he said.

But that worst-case scenario was avoided. Come fall, Daugherty expects that it will be business as usual along College Avenue and in the Centre Region.

“Now is the time for everyone to step up,” he said. “We need to show the world that 'We Are Penn State' is not just a bunch of words.”

Chris Morelli is the managing editor of The Centre County Gazette.
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