Seton Hill's move to PSAC helping turn Greensburg into college town
By Dave Mackall
Published: Thursday, July 25, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Ever think of Greensburg as a college town? If you haven't noticed, the city's face is evolving — particularly west of Main Street — in large part because of the accelerated growth at Seton Hill.
While the school has been expanding beyond its original campus with new buildings on the rise downtown, its progressive athletics department can take much of the credit for stimulating Greensburg's economy.
“People are talking about it, and it's something that we're noticing,” said Steven Gifford, the executive director of the Greensburg Community Development Corp., a nonprofit group designed to aid the city's business community, specifically by locating space to lease and buildings to buy.
In the past decade, Seton Hill has gone from an all-women's school to a co-ed institution offering 21 varsity sports, all of which compete at the NCAA Division II level.
With the Griffins about to begin their first season in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, there will be more name recognition with their opponents.
Seton Hill and Pitt-Johnstown this year became the newest members of the PSAC following the breakup of their previous league, the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“We got our feet wet in the WVIAC,” Seton Hill athletics director Chris Snyder said. “It was great for the athletics department and school, but we lacked recognition because of the public's unfamiliarity with the schools we were playing.”
Snyder, a former football coach at Bethany (W.Va.), moved to the area nine years ago to take over as football coach and athletics director at Seton Hill, and the changes he's seen in the community have been astonishing, he said.
He since has given up coaching football to focus solely on his job as AD.
“The growth in Greensburg is phenomenal,” Snyder said. “Academics and athletics have had an impact on the city and on the university as more and more word has gotten out that Seton Hill is more than a sleepy women's college on the hill. It's evidenced by the signage in town. It's popping up in restaurants and various other businesses. You see our schedules everywhere.”
What's more, Seton Hill has had a presence at Lynch Field for the annual Greensburg Community Days, where members of the school's teams promote such things as Griffins gear.
Soon, Saturday afternoons at Offut Field, where Seton Hill plays its home football games, likely will have a different feel, Snyder said.
Instead of playing schools such as Concord, Fairmont State and Shepherd — not exactly household names and all based in West Virginia — Seton Hill with more regularity will be facing schools such as California (Pa.), Indiana (Pa.) and Slippery Rock.
“I believe it will have a big impact on the city and the visibility of our teams when local folks see the IUPs and Slippery Rocks,” Snyder said. “The community can rally behind that.”
Snyder said that since joining the PSAC, Seton Hill has generated much anticipation and intrigue.
“You're going to get a lot of different reaction from the town's people,” he said. “You might have someone saying, ‘My next-door neighbor's son plays at Slippery Rock.' Or, ‘My best friend's daughter plays volleyball at Clarion.' It's not a slight against the WVIAC, but not a lot of folks here are familiar with the Davis and Elkins' of the world.”
Gifford said the Greensburg Community Development Corp. is seeing more business opportunities develop in Greensburg now that Seton Hill has joined the PSAC, and more developers and business owners are inquiring about moving into the city.
“They're specifically looking at Greensburg as a university town,” he said. “One store in Indiana, Pa., that sells running shoes, pants, shirts and tops is looking for a second location.”
Gifford added other examples, including a yoga teacher who is looking to find space to open a studio in downtown and a prospective owner of a Mexican restaurant.
“He wants to sell tacos, wraps ... He knows that's what sells with college students, and he wants to keep them from going out to the places along Route 30 so often,” Gifford said.
“We've heard from a lot of people who want to capitalize.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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