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south bend cubs stadium renovation set to hit a home run in community development 12


South Bend Cubs Stadium Renovation Set to Hit a Home Run in Community Development


Michael Chen

May 17, 2024 - 17:28 pm


Major Upgrades Coming to South Bend's Four Winds Field

(Bloomberg) -- The city of South Bend, Indiana, usually echoed by the cheers for Notre Dame football, is gearing up to shift its sporting focus to the diamond field. In an upcoming move, the South Bend Redevelopment Authority will issue $41.7 million in lease rental bonds. The objective? A significant renovation of Four Winds Field at Coveleski Stadium, which is notably the ballpark for the Chicago Cubs' High-A affiliate.

South Bend Cubs

Though the South Bend Cubs may not rival the draw of Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish, they are no small fry in terms of fanbase. Ranking 39th in attendance out of the country's 120 minor league teams is no minor feat as disclosed by Ballpark Digest. The team managed to attract a substantial crowd of 314,583 last year, as highlighted by Lou Pierce, the PR spokesperson for the South Bend Cubs.

Announcements indicate that the new bond issuance, which is slated to be priced on May 21, will facilitate an array of enhancements at the stadium. Spectators can look forward to enjoying the game from an added second level of seating, reveling in a 20,000 square foot four-story club, convening in an elaborate event space building, and indulging in the improved offerings of retail and concession zones. It’s a complete overhaul aiming to raise the seating limit from 5,000 to an impressive 7,500.

The landscape of minor-league baseball has been tumultuous post-pandemic, as the 2020 season faced an unprecedented shutdown. This lead to a drastic move from Major League Baseball, trimming down 42 affiliate teams and demanding ballpark improvements nationwide. Yet, the South Bend team's robust attendance has caught observers like Eric Kazatsky of Bloomberg Intelligence by surprise.

Kazatsky, commenting via email, drew attention to the cost-prohibitive nature of big-league games for an average family – a divide between the 'haves' and 'have nots'. He suggested that the niche of affordable family amusement is primed for growth, with minor league baseball poised to steer this expansion. Practical, wallet-friendly entertainment could be the next home run for families looking to spend time together without the hefty price tag.

This is more evident when pricing is juxtaposed: attending a South Bend Cubs game at Four Winds Field comes with a price tag of $13 to $15 for a Tuesday face-off against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Compare this to the Wrigley Field experience – home to the parent Chicago Cubs – where ticket prices for the same weekday’s game against the Atlanta Braves can range from a modest $19 for upper-deck seating to a steep $379 for a club box at field level, and a dizzying $829 for the elite Maker’s Mark Barrel Room 28.

Investors looking into the South Bend bonds can take note of a layer of financial security. The bonds are secured by tax revenues levied on all properties within the South Bend Redevelopment District. They carry an ‘AA’ rating with a stable outlook handed down by S&P Global Ratings. This fiscal strategy is not shooting from the hip; it's a measured move with the city planning to settle the bonds' debt service via tax revenue generated by the Professional Sports and Convention Development Area. This was an initiative established back in 1997 to fund the College Football Hall of Fame, and it received a fresh lease on life in 2021, reinstated by the Indiana state legislature.

The man at the helm of the South Bend Cubs for over a decade, Andrew Berlin, highlighted the profound creativity that went into rebooting the Development Area. His correspondence reiterated the communal effort behind this move, entailing the collaboration of local legislators and state capital officials to harness state income and sales taxes that would ordinarily feed into the general state funds.

Berlin laid out that the generated tax revenue is earmarked mainly for stadium refurbishments, leaving a surplus to bolster the local community by investing in other worthy landmarks. These include the century-old Morris Center for Performing Arts and primary convention facilities of the city.

S&P's director Bobby Otter mentioned that several Indiana municipalities have utilized Professional Sports and Convention Development Areas with legislative backing. This has been a choice strategy to underwrite debts incurred from project development that serve larger communal interests.

Looking at the timeline, Four Winds Field will witness construction commencement post current season, with aspirations of welcoming fans back on Opening Day in 2025. Plans for further enhancements outside the stadium are set to begin following the 2025 season. "The stadium will be completely redone with a second deck and 2,500 more seats by Opening Day in April of 2026," affirmed team spokesperson, Pierce.

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As South Bend eagerly awaits the transformation of Four Winds Field, the city ideally positions itself as a beacon for minor league sports while offering an inclusive and budget-friendly space for families and sports enthusiasts alike. The changes not only promise to invigorate the spirit of the game but also suggest an industrial renaissance, marrying sports and community development through strategic fiscal policies. });

The prospect of such developments becomes all the more pertinent in the wake of the pandemic's economic impact, signaling a resilient comeback not just for the sport, but for the community as well. South Bend's move reflects a broader trend toward revitalizing and leveraging small-scale professional sports as a vehicle for sustaining and nurturing the social fabric of cities.

By investing in local sports infrastructure, South Bend also underlines the importance of community assets in fostering regional pride and boosting the local economy. The anticipated renovations to Four Winds Field exemplify how sports venues can be catalysts for urban renewal, sparking positive changes that echo beyond the boundaries of the stadium.

As minor league baseball positions itself as a cornerstone of family-friendly entertainment, cities like South Bend are seizing the opportunity to align sporting excitement with civic progress. The South Bend Cubs, a once lesser-known affiliate, now step into the limelight, their home field poised to become a landmark of regional pride and joy.

For more information on the South Bend Cubs and their upcoming schedule, please visit their official website.