South Bend, Cubs Look Towards a Bright Future
Downtown South Bend, Indiana is going through a renaissance; old, dilapidated buildings that were fallen apart are now being renovated and converted into retail, business, and residential units sparking a population boom.
The transformation is taking place at the historic Studebaker and Chase buildings that only a few short years ago represented a painful reminder of the city’s past, but now represents its bright future.
The nearly century-old Studebaker plant is under renovations that will reface portions of its exterior with reflective glass and stylized brick patterns. Once completed, it will be turned into a massive, mixed-use technology center providing the city with the technology jobs it desires.
The tallest building in the city Chase Tower has been revamped into the colorful and stylish 187-room Aloft Hotel. The Hibberd Building is in the process of $5 million transformation that will turn the 3-story structure into retail and residential space with 14 apartments occupying the top two floors.
Smart Streets have been installed that have converted one-way roads to two-way roads, bike lanes added, and roundabouts implemented for better cross-town commute for residents and more commerce in the neighborhood. There has been $90 million in private investment from businesses who say Smart Streets was a factor in their decision to move to South Bend.
Perhaps one of the first buildings to go through a dramatic transformation was Four Winds Field. The plan to renovate the stadium goes back a decade with plans in 2007 to knock down the Chevy Gates building behind the outfield walls and create an outfield entrance that would open the ballpark to the rest of downtown.
Other plans called to incorporate the synagogue built in 1901 into the ballpark and install a wraparound concourse. The stadium’s foundations were ahead of its time featuring a sunken field and a wide-open concourse behind the grandstand.
In 2012, those changes were implemented into the sleepy, vapid ballpark to a tune of $4.25 million. The changes included a fun zone, splash pad and playground, 2,000 new theater-style seats, outdoor suites, and hospitality area. The vacant synagogue was transformed into the team store.
In 2014 the stadium was renamed Four Winds Field at Coveleski Stadium and the next season a new team name South Bend Cubs was adapted. The name was so popular that merchandise sales increased by 700% with items shipped to all 50 states and 6 countries. Attendance also increased by 34% the first season with the Cubs moniker.
“In many ways, the ballpark has been the catalyst for the revitalization of downtown South Bend,” said South Bend Cubs president Joe Hart. “It’s great to see business and people coming back downtown.”
More changes will begin this year with the completion of the Ivy at Berlin Place; a $21 million development that will overlook the stadium outfield walls. The four building, mixed-use development will feature 120 studio, one and two bedroom apartments, and the pièce de résistance a rooftop party deck.
The rooftop party deck will be able to accommodate 300 people on game days providing a similar feel to its parent club 100 miles north at Wrigley Field. The rentals are expected to take place in late June with residents moving into units at the beginning of July bringing in new neighbors steps away from the ballpark.
Hart sees a vibrant downtown that will be tech savvy the next decade in South Bend that may rethink the Cubs’ strategy on marketing and promotion.
“From a marketing standpoint, we will have to get even more creative in how we interact with people living in the downtown area. We will have to find ways to reach demographic through social media and more one on one marketing.”