A whole new ball game in South Bend

New ownership, new amenities and a reaffirmed commitment to enhancing the overall fan experience … 

For the South Bend Silver Hawks and Coveleski Stadium in South Bend, it’s a whole new ball game. 

 

Since he became the new owner of the Silver Hawks last November, Andrew Berlin and the team’s staff have been diligently working on a host of positive changes at “the Cove” and within the Silver Hawks organization itself.

Partnering with the City of South Bend, and building what he calls a “strong alliance” with fans to exceed their expectations, Berlin is optimistic about the future, which entails a 20-year commitment to keep the team in South Bend.

“We’re enhancing the overall fan experience, from the moment fans make a decision to come out and see a game, to the time they walk out to the parking lot and head home after having an entertaining, memorable time watching the Silver Hawks at the Cove,” says Berlin, a successful businessman who also is chairman and CEO of Chicago-based Berlin Packaging, as well as a limited partner of the Chicago White Sox and the owner of Swing-Batter-Swing LLC.

More new amenities = more fun, more fans

In advance of the April 9 season opener, work crews have been working hard on a series of new enhancements at Coveleski Stadium that will build on last year’s major renovations. Berlin himself has invested $2.25 million, and the City of South Bend will fund $1.4 million toward the upgrades.

“We want people to be ‘wowed’ when they come to the ball park,” says Joe Hart, the new president of the Silver Hawks. “We want to make it a community gathering point.”

 

With this in mind, the following enhancements are under way:

  • A new team store, housed in the newly renovated historic structure that formerly was the Sons of Israel synagogue, built in 1901
  • An inflatable attraction zone near center field
  • A splash pad and playground area adjacent to the right field
  • New premium outdoor baseline suites, and doubling of the size of existing suites
  • The first phase of a new commissary and storage building near left field
  • A fire pit area near center field
  • Replacement of bleacher seats with green plastic chair seats
  • Improvements to the fun zone introduced last year, as well as back office enhancements
  • Enhancement of the Cove’s audio-visual elements, including the addition of flat screens throughout the concourse
  • Doubling of the length and scale of fireworks shows
  • Covering of most of the concrete walls with brown brick

“The improvements to Coveleski Stadium will likely rank it among the top 15 or 20 percent of Minor League Baseball parks in the country from the standpoint of amenities,” says Hart. Prior to becoming the Silver Hawks’ president, Hart was involved in the launch of a new franchise in Port Charlotte, Fla., with the Stone Crabs and Ripken Baseball. Additionally, he was named Florida State League Executive of the Year in 2011.

   Coveleski Stadium in South Bend

Bill Schalliol, assistant director of Community & Economic Development for the City of South Bend, says the improvements are consistent with the latest trends in baseball. “A lot of them are based on what we’ve seen at other parks,” Schalliol says. “They build on the biggest single improvement introduced last year — the 360-degree concourse.”

Berlin agrees, pointing out that after 25 years, Coveleski Stadium was “showing its wear” and was in dire need of a facelift. The 360-degree concourse, terraced seating and other enhancements were just the ticket.

“The City of South Bend’s officials had the right vision in mind when they committed to the concourse and other renovations that were introduced last year,” Berlin says. 

Without those improvements, Berlin says he probably wouldn’t have considered the prospect of owning the Silver Hawks.

Hart and Berlin agree that South Bend’s previous mayor, Steve Luecke, and the former Silver Hawks president, Joe Kernan (who also is both a former Indiana governor and a former South Bend mayor), laid the groundwork for the Cove to thrive well into the future, ensuring the Silver Hawks will remain a part of the city’s sports scene.

“It has been good to have very thoughtful City officials to work with,” Berlin comments, adding that the City’s commitment of additional funds along with his contribution to the current upgrades have made for a strong partnership.

“It’s a handshake between us and the City to help the downtown area thrive and revitalize,” Berlin says.

 

Specifically, Berlin asserts that the improved Coveleski Stadium could help attract developers, who clearly gravitate toward cities that draw masses of consumers to their downtown areas for sporting and entertainment events.

“Getting a huge influx of people to come downtown and spend time there is a critical path toward revitalization,” says Berlin,

Attractions like minor league stadiums can have a multiplier effect, too, generating increased traffic at restaurants, shops and other establishments in the area, leading to overall economic development and an expansion of the tax base.

Larson-Danielson Construction Co. Inc. of LaPorte will be handling work on the splash pad and the team store, while Ziolkowski Construction Inc. of South Bend will be in charge of the other upgrades. A majority of the new enhancements will be completed by the time the first pitch is thrown on April 9, while remaining work will continue through May and June.

Family-friendly fun for all

“Research shows that about 15–20 percent of fans are purists,” says Hart, emphasizing the importance of taking steps to expand the fan base to include more families, as well as “non-diehards” who occasionally may want to take in a fun night at the Cove.

With this in mind, the addition of splash pads, playgrounds, fun zones and other amenities, along with lip-smacking new food choices in the new commissary, will appeal to an ever-increasing pool of customers. It’s all part of the plan.

“Beyond these great renovations and improvements, we’re enhancing the total fan experience in other ways, too,” Berlin notes. Staff at the Cove, from ticket-takers at the gates to parking attendants and concession stand workers, will receive special training and coaching to ensure total customer satisfaction.

 

“We want to treat all fans like guests, whether it involves our staff helping young moms with baby carriages, cleaning the ballpark after every game or providing better food options,” Berlin says.

Berlin and company are going the extra mile in other ways, too, by improving the signage on main roads leading to the Cove, improving the lighting in the parking lots and actively listening to fans’ feedback, as evidenced by the town hall meeting at South Bend’s DoubleTree Hotel on March 14. There, Berlin and Hart answered questions and listened to attendees’ suggestions — all part of Berlin’s vision for expanding the “alliance” with fans.

And then there will be remarkable promotions, too.

“We’ll have ‘Flat Screen Fridays,’ when a 32-inch flat screen television will be given away during every inning,” says Hart.

And, on Saturday nights, the first 1,000 fans entering the ballpark will receive giveaways ranging from baseballs to fleece blankets.

Between the recent positive media coverage and the steady crescendo of advertising on television and billboards and in publications, ticket sales already are 10–15 percent higher compared to last year.

“We’re leaving very little to chance,” Berlin says.

By all accounts, the odds are clearly in favor of a supremely entertaining and satisfying experience for anyone attending games at the Cove, regardless of whether the Silver Hawks win or lose.

To buy tickets, view the 2012 season schedule or obtain other information about the Silver Hawks and Coveleski Stadium, click here.

Publication Date: 
March 2012
Article Type: 
Focus On