Find the people, resources, news & events that interest you.
By Phil D’Amico, director of business growth, The Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County
Lynn Kachmarik has been the vice president and general manager of the South Bend Silver Hawks, affiliate of major league baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks, for two years.
Lynn was largely responsible for overseeing the latest expansion projects and major upgrades to Coveleski Stadium, which resulted in more than $7 million in renovations. The transformation has made the ballpark “one of the best minor league baseball experiences in all of major league baseball.” Prior to her work with the Silver Hawks, Lynn spent her career as the water polo and swim coach at Bucknell University and director of Athletics at Saint Mary’s College.
|Lynn Kachmarik, vice president and general manager of the South Bend|
Q: Wow! The upgrades to Coveleski Stadium look awesome. How do you think things came out?
A: I think the stadium renovations are fantastic! While we are not entirely done, our fans and community members will see an entirely new ballpark with an incredible baseball experience.
Q: You just mentioned having a baseball “experience” — what does that mean?
A: Yes, absolutely, a great question. We have 70 home games and we talk about 70 home shows, not games. We create an atmosphere that leaves our families wanting to come back as soon as they can. Minor league baseball is about an affordable family experience. We have pre-game Happy Hour Concerts on Thursdays, Fireworks on Fridays and this season Jetta and The Jellybeans are pre-game entertainment every home Saturday with professional baseball entertainment on the field like ZOOperstars and BirdZerk each week. Our food is awesome; and with our new Budweiser Picnic Garden, you are as close to the game as possible. Our new video scoreboard allows us to do things that many other parks were able to do but we could not. We can now have instant replay, we can show families up on the board enjoying the game, we can highlight our players in a way that never happened before.
Q: Yeah, the thing I most enjoy is you get all of that for a fraction of the price of a major league game. Do you hear that a lot?
A: Oh, no question! I think now, more than ever, fans get a total baseball experience in their backyard for a small percentage of what a major league game would charge. Minor league baseball is very different from major league. Minor league combines the baseball with family entertainment in a way that the big leagues cannot do. That is what makes it so much fun. With our new entrance that connects to downtown South Bend, families can park on Main Street and walk just two blocks to our new entrance.
Q: The thing that is overlooked, or may be the greatest area of marketing for you, is the regional concept. Has that been a focus for you?
A: Yes, absolutely. I think the thing we have seen this year, and trust me, I meet as many fans and talk to as many people as I can, I am constantly on the run on game day, but we have seen fans from all over. I have met several people from La Porte, Valparaiso, Elkhart, cities over the state line into Michigan, so we really are drawing a regional base. The regional promotion aspect has been a real area of emphasis for us.
Q: You spoke of marketing a couple of times — what have been some of your marketing initiatives?
A: Great question. We have really tried to focus on community and relationships. We have such a great group of players, as well as the manager, Mark Haley, who have all been very willing to help sell the experience. Last season our players and coaches volunteered for almost 1,000 hours of community outreach. That is an incredible commitment when you understand that our players play 140 games in about 148 days while they are here. We have also established an Adoptive Family program, increased our public appearances and we try to get Swoop (the Silver Hawks' mascot) out as much as possible. We have also built up our reading program and have over 10,000 kids reading with Swoop throughout the year.
Q: Lynn, all of these things sound great, but I guess the ongoing challenge for you and your staff is how does all this translate into filling up the seats?
A: Yes, another good question which continues to be a challenge. We do feel we are making strides in that direction and creating these relationships will equate to putting more people in the seats. Every fan I meet tells me that they had a blast and they will be back. I think it will take us this entire season to bring more groups and families out to the park to really see and understand the family entertainment value of minor league baseball.
Q: What do you see as some of the next steps or ways to help promote the ballpark and team?
A: I think our new turf field creates potential partnerships that we have never had. We can host junior high, high school, college and other youth sports events on our multipurpose field. We hosted the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure this past April and we are looking to partner with other community events just like this. I think as we build our crowds other businesses might look to locate in this important part of our community.
Q: I think the only thing missing is that you need more energy and passion, and you need to work harder… (hahaha). Well, you know, I love baseball, and I really appreciate your passion and drive to make this a huge community success.
A: Yeah … I know, right … I am constantly moving, but I love what I do; my family actually loves coming to the ballpark with me and being a part of this great experience. We have a wonderful resource here in our community, and it is a gem, if we allow it to grow. This is a place where you can get a minor league baseball experience, but yet see future major leaguers (Arizona Diamondbacks) up close.