The sports scene in the region is not limited to entertainment and games.
Events such as the All American Amateur Baseball Association Tournament and the Sunnehanna Amateur Tournament for Champions brought future baseball and golf stars, respectively, to the area while creating a financial boost for local businesses.
The Johnstown Tomahawks of the North American Hockey League offer a major tenant at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial and give hockey fans a taste of the sport played in the largest junior league in the United States.
In addition to the AAABA tournament, which has been played in Johnstown 74 of its 76 years since 1945, Sargent’s Stadium at the Point hosts the sophomore Johnstown Mill Rats in the Prospect League, a college wood bat league.
The Mill Rats share the point with the Johnstown Collegiate Baseball League, which produces the town’s representatives in the AAABA tournament each year.
The semi-professional football team Flood City Thunder are preparing for their third season in the Great Eastern Football Association.
Sargent’s Stadium at the Point, built in 1926, has undergone extensive renovations over the past year, which should give the Mill Rats, Thunder, AAABA Tournament, Pitt-Johnstown baseball and Bishop McCort a major boost Catholic High School, which uses the stadium for football, soccer and baseball.
“It’s beautiful and historic,” City of Johnstown Recreation Director Tony Penna Jr. said of the new spot.
“When people from out of town see it, it makes you appreciate how special it is, as someone who lives here.
“Its place in history is special, and we managed to keep it intact.”
Sargent’s stadium began a transformation shortly after the 76th AAABA Tournament ended in August.
The artificial turf, which had been installed in 2007, was torn out and replaced with a new playing surface.
The project was delayed for about a month when the outside company doing the upgrades was hit by a pandemic-related work stoppage.
The once outdated stadium lighting has been replaced with an efficient LED system.
A sound system – barely audible as 5,680 fans attended the opening night of the 2021 AAABA tournament – is set to be replaced.
“The biggest improvement is on the lights, because I’ve learned over time how worried everyone was that (the previous lights) weren’t going to work,” Penna said, referring to reports. well-documented lighting malfunctions in the past. “The playing surface had to be redone. The dashboard is phenomenal. This will allow us to create opportunities for the community. The sound system will be done.
When the stadium is packed, the city and its surroundings benefit.
‘Event of the Year’
George Arcurio III is president of the Johnstown Oldtimers Baseball Association, which sponsors the AAABA tournament. Arcurio said the tournament generates between $1 million and $1.5 million annually in indirect revenue in the region from the thousands of people who attend the week-long event.
“For me, the AAABA tournament is Johnstown’s social event of the year,” Arcurio said. “Hotels, restaurants, pharmacies, fast food outlets, clothing stores, gas stations, all tourist sites, the airport and supermarkets all have positive feedback on what is happening with all people who arrive in the region.
Arcurio said about 12,000 people paid to watch games at The Point during AAABA week in 2021.
The tournament also plays matches at six other Cambria County grounds.
“Lilly, Portage, Mount Aloysius in Cresson, Forest Hills in Sidman as well as Roxbury, Westmont and the Point – all regions, businesses are doing very well,” Arcurio said. “Most places told me it was a 15-20% boost for their businesses if we had good weather throughout the week.”
The Mill Rats played their first Prospect League season in the summer of 2021. Attendance may not have met preseason expectations, but the team has had some on-field success in the second half of the schedule, approaching earning a playoff berth.
The Thunder have given fans another chance to watch football in an area that loves the sport. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused several delays to Thunder’s inaugural 2020 season, but the eight-man semi-pro team played its spring schedule in 2021 and is scheduled to open March 19.
The biggest names in golf
At Sunnehanna Country Club, the local tournament has retained its status as one of amateur golf’s premier events. June’s competition brought future PGA stars such as Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Collin Morikawa to Westmont.
When the Sunnehanna Amateur Tournament for Champions holds its 69th event in June, it will be among the top seven summer amateur tournaments in the country that have formed the Elite Amateur Golf Series (EAGS).
“The key is to ensure the tournament remains relevant in a rapidly changing environment,” said Sunnehanna Amateur Co-Chair John Yerger. “Change is inevitable and it ensures that the tournament will remain an integral part of amateur golf in the future.”
“The Growing Sport”
Visit Johnstown Sports Travel program coordinator Nicole Waligora said the area attracts many people who enjoy sports such as mountain biking, BMX or even those who just want to enjoy the trails of the Laurel Highlands.
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Mountain Bike Championships are held at Highland Regional Park, bringing together undergraduate and graduate mountain bikers from across the state.
“It really is a growing sport that draws a few hundred people every fall,” Waligora said. “This is a group that benefits from camping in our area. Sometimes these people stay in non-traditional housing.
Waligora also highlighted the Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling event which brings together thousands of competitors, family members and spectators to the 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial.
“PJW is coming back, and this year it’s going to be bigger because they’ve expanded their women’s division,” Waligora said.
“There are usually 750 athletes, but now it could be close to 1,100.
“When Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling started holding the event in Johnstown five or six years ago, an economic impact of one million dollars was estimated. This number has probably increased considerably.
Other events at the War Memorial, such as the annual Slap Shot Cup tournament, have found a place in the area’s sports calendar. The Slap Shot Cup of adult hockey brings players from across the United States and Canada to Johnstown, with men’s and women’s competition in multiple age groups and divisions.
Of course, the Tomahawks, who are in their 10th season in Johnstown, are the main tenant of the arena.
The NAHL Tomahawks still managed to average about 1,100 fans per game in 2020-21 despite uncertainty over pandemic guidelines.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and part of 2021, the War Memorial received assistance from the 1889 Foundation to acquire much-needed skates and a sports field that allows the arena to provide a wider variety of sporting events, including volleyball and karate, according to ASM Global, the Los Angeles-based venue management company that operates the facility.
The 28-team Flood City Challenge volleyball tournament recently brought competitors from Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia to Johnstown. The Tri-State Arenacross and its runners from 35 states and Canada provided a boost to area hotels, restaurants and other businesses in December.
World-renowned Harlem Globetrotters, Blippie the Musical, Brit Floyd and Dustin Lynch are among the arena’s features in 2022, and an Esports tournament is planned for the summer.
Built for speed
Other sports bring competition and money to the region.
The historic Jennerstown Speedway kicks off another season in April on the 7,500-seat, 0.522-mile asphalt oval. The races start in April and end in early October. Built in the 1920s, Jennerstown Speedway is one of the oldest short tracks in the United States.
The area also offers varsity sports at many levels.
The St. Francis University program in Loretto competes in NCAA Division I while Pitt-Johnstown and Indiana, Pennsylvania each play in NCAA Division II, and Mount Aloysius in Cresson is in NCAA Division III. the NCAA. Penn Highlands Community College is a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).
Options for participating in or attending sporting events abound throughout the region, providing an often intangible boost to the region’s reputation as a destination.
“When it comes to quality of life, a lot of that is fulfilled and we’re going to have more,” Penna said.
Mike Mastovich is a sports journalist and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.