Happy Valley Sports & Entertainment Alliance Names Executive Director

Winford Hunter

The Happy Valley Sports & Entertainment Alliance (HVSEA) has hired Eric Engelbarts to lead its effort to elevate Centre County’s standing as a sports and entertainment destination, according to a news release on Monday.

Engelbarts was executive director of Michigan Sports Alliance since 2012. During that time, he created and grew the State Games of Michigan, which encompass more than 50 sports, hosting 10,000 participants at 45 venues, with an annual employment and economic impact of $3.25 million. He additionally piloted a second sports hub and successful launch for Winter Games in Marquette, Michigan, among other accomplishments, according to the release.

His experience also includes time with the Alabama Sports Festival, West Michigan Sports Commission and the National Congress of State Games.

HVSEA Board Chair William Oldsey said “an excellent pool of talent expressed interest” in the position and that Engelbarts emerged as “the best of the best.”

“Eric has a wealth of experience and a track record of success in the sports and entertainment field,” Oldsey said. “Working closely with Centre County and Penn State, the Alliance is well positioned to build on the exciting things starting to happen in Happy Valley in the athletic and entertainment arenas.”

Engelbarts earned a bachelor’s degree in recreation, park and tourism administration from Western Illinois University and a master’s degree in sport management and recreation from Springfield College.

He will begin as HVSEA executive director on April 29.

“The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau, search committee, and the Centre County community at large have been very welcoming to me and my family throughout the hiring process,” Engelbarts said. “I look forward to leading the Happy Valley Sports & Entertainment Alliance in bringing visitors to the area to boost the local economy through sports and entertainment tourism.”

Announced in 2021 by the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau (HVAB), HVSEA will operate as a parallel, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with a separate board that will govern its activity, with HVAB staff supporting the Alliance’s scope of work.

The HVSEA will be housed out of offices at the HVAB’s main visitor center at 204 W. Beaver Ave. in State College.

“Eric’s hiring is an exciting development for the Alliance, and for all of those who embraced the vision of what creating the HVSEA could mean for Centre County and the area,” HVAB President and CEO Fritz Smith said. “We look forward to working with Eric and the HVSEA Board as they work to capitalize on the tremendous opportunity we see for Happy Valley to grow into a sought-after destination for marquee events and tournaments.”

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