Local hotels and inns are feeling the impact of no fall sports at Juniata College and a postponed Big 10 fall season.
Penn State football fans have been calling lodgings establishments across the county this week, canceling reservations they had for home football games this fall.
Penn State fans often escape the bustle, and limited lodging availability, of State College by staying “over the mountain” in Huntingdon County. With no football season this fall, hotels and inns are anticipating a slower season than normal.
Ron Petruccioli, general manager of the Huntingdon Comfort Inn, said on the weekends he could expect to fill 40-50% of his 69 rooms with Penn State fans.
Petruccioli explained he’s mostly accepted the situation and is looking forward to the spring, when it’s expected the season will resume.
Dustin Shriner, general manager of Fairfield Inn on Shaner Boulevard in Smithfield Township, anticipates a similar season. He said Fairfield is still coasting on the activity provided by Raystown Lake recreation, however he has already received cancellations for rooms booked specifically for Ohio State and Iowa games.
“It’s far enough out that we can give them their money back, but I know that it’ll hurt us,” Shriner said. “It stinks. Obviously that’s out of our control, and we won’t have parents staying here because of Juniata not having fall sports.”
On a Penn State home game weekend, Shriner estimated around 70 of Fairfield’s 81 rooms would be full with fans.
At the Huntingdon Motor Inn, also in Smithfield Township, fans book rooms a year ahead of games.
“Penn State football weekends are usually completely full… Now, we’re getting nothing from them. It really really hurts us,” said Darin Grubb, co-owner of the inn.
Typically, Grubb said he could fill 42 of his 48 rooms with visitors on their way to Beaver Stadium on a given weekend.
“This year is going to really hurt a lot. I guess we’ll have to wait until next year to get things back to normal,” Grubb said.
Matt Price, executive director of the Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau, said measuring the exact impact of removing Penn State football is difficult because many events that attract visitors to Huntingdon County, such as Hartslog Day and Oktoberfest, are also canceled. From previous years, Price knows Huntingdon County receives an overflow of visitors who do not stay in Centre County on Penn State football weekends.
However, Price pointed out that Huntingdon County has done well for itself in attracting visitors to the Raystown Lake region, which has supported the county immensely. Price speculated this summer’s lodging is the best the visitors bureau has seen in his 13 years of working there.
“From the demand, we’re still getting phone calls, emails and social media messages looking for lodging in the county for the summer,” Price said. “Because we’re an outdoor recreation destination, I expect we will weather the storm of the fall football cancellation very well, barring any future shutdowns or circumstances beyond our control.”
Price also explained visitors to the county spend money at local businesses and restaurants. Not having those visitors will only worsen the struggle of operating a small business at 25% capacity during a pandemic, according to Price.
Kelly’s Korner, a restaurant also in Smithfield Township, has traditionally received business as a result of folks visiting town for Juniata and Penn state athletic events. However, Beth Feather, co-owner of the restaurant, has observed business from Penn State fans go down over the past five years.
“I’m sure we’ll see a decline, but this year’s kinda a wash. We’re just hoping to get to the New Year — It’s totally out of our control,” Feather said.
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