By Stephanie Kalina-Metzger
Bill Oldsey and his family attend a “White Out” game.
It’s no secret that Penn State alumni feel a deep, lifelong connection to their alma mater. They also have a love for the place they called home during their college days, so much so that many return to live here or visit so frequently they invest in a second home.
Liveability.com ranks State College among the most livable small cities in the country, just one of its many “best of” ratings over the years. Niche.com includes several State College neighborhoods among its top places to raise a family, with high rankings for safety, schools, diversity and employment opportunities.
Bill Oldsey, whose father was a Penn State professor, grew up in the area in the 1950s and ‘60s. He always had fond memories of State College, so he and his wife Julie would visit the area year-round.
Being close to a world-class research university has great advantages: football, basketball, hockey and wrestling, activities in the art, humanities and entertainment arena.
“For years, we had a second home here, while residing in Princeton and Basking Ridge, New Jersey, while I worked in Manhattan in the publishing industry,” said Oldsey, who describes himself as a ‘townie.’ “Two of my children are Penn State grads, along with my mother, my father and my sister,” Oldsey said, adding that he was elected to the PSU Board of Trustees in 2013 and served on it for nine years, so having a home in State College was a great convenience.
“I think being close to a world-class research university has great advantages. Plus, we love football, basketball, hockey and wrestling,” he said, adding that the area is also known for a plethora of activities in the art, humanities and entertainment arena,” he said.
Oldsey also appreciates the cultural diversity of the area. “The public-school systems are acclaimed and that helps with real estate values and attracting young families. The Centre region is well-represented by all age groups, both young and old,” he said.
Haley Butler and her family climb Mount Nittany.
Haley Butler is a Penn State graduate who lives in the Philadelphia area and returned to Happy Valley regularly before buying a second home here. “My husband and I were season ticket holders for 22 years and had lots of friends in the area, but hotels were expensive, so we decided to invest in a property at Toftrees for our future retirement,” she said, adding that now the home is an epicenter where friends and family gather on the weekends. “It gives us a homebase,” she said.
My husband and I were season ticket holders for 22 years and had lots of friends in the area, but hotels were expensive, so we decided to invest in a property at Toftrees for our future retirement. It gives us a homebase.
Butler said that the area is also great for older people who want to stay active. “We hike Mount Nittany, paddleboard on Whipple Dam, visit Bald Eagle State Park and later on go into town to shop and visit the many restaurants,” she said, adding that sports enthusiasts are in their element with a multitude of opportunities to attend basketball and football games and wrestling matches. “There are also lecture series where authors speak; so there really is a lot to do here for people of all ages,” she said.
Emily Schmalstieg has been a realtor in the Central PA region for 30 years. One of the amenities her customers are seeking are educational opportunities. “A returning couple recently told me that they had a child with learning disabilities and they learned there was an excellent program in the area. Another couple moved back to State College to enroll their teen in a top-notch engineering program,” she said. According to Schmalstieg, people frequently purchase homes in the area based on positive memories and for the broad array of activities available year-round, such as summer festivals, winter sports like skiing and ice hockey, museums, performing arts and outdoor recreation.
Mindy Sabol, realtor with Kissinger, Bigatel & Brower, helped the Butlers find and purchase their home in Toftrees. She said about 10% of the 100+ transactions she and her team handle every year are for people who have a primary residence outside the area and are purchasing a second home in Happy Valley.
Many buyers are coming back to Happy Valley permanently to be with family and alumni friends who never left or have already returned. Others, of course, are second homes for football weekends.
“Most of the second home buyers are alumni. Parents of incoming PSU students make up the next largest group buying second homes here,” Sabol said. “Many buyers are coming back to Happy Valley permanently to be with family and alumni friends who never left or have already returned. Others, of course, are second homes for football weekends.”
“There is a huge, active retirement community here. We are so centrally located to all the eastern cities, which I’ve had many retirees tell me is appealing to them for travel,” she continued. “With the university offering so many unique groups and classes through OLLI, alumni and retirees have so much to do! Hiking clubs, basket-making and arts activities of all kinds are available.”