Ballpark renovations should have one major goal: to turn the facility into a true destination. And that’s what happened this season in South Bend, making Coveleski Stadium renovations the clear choice for the 2012 Ballpark Renovation of the Year award.
This past season saw $4.25 million in improvements to the home of the South Bend Silver Hawks (Low Class A; Midwest League), mostly of the fan-friendly variety.
“People don’t realize how close South Bend came to losing minor-league baseball,” said Kevin Reichard, publisher of Ballpark Digest. “But the renovations at Coveleski Stadium brought out fans and showed Andrew Berlin’s commitment to the market. Seeing a game in South Bend was incredibly enhanced by the ballpark improvements.”
Opening in 1988, the ballpark was largely unchanged until Andrew Berlin bought the team and worked with the city on a renovation plan that centered around family-oriented upgrades. Kids enjoyed a new fun zone, splash pad and playground area (shown above); adults could see a game in more comfort with the addition of 2,000 new theater-style seats and shop at a new team store residing in a restored 1901 building formerly housing a synagogue (below). New outdoor suites, completely renovated outdoor suites and a new hospitality area complete the fan experience.
“We’ve had a great season, thanks to all the support from the community,” said Joe Hart, president of the Silver Hawks. “We’ve invested a lot of time and money into turning the Cove into a destination that offers something for people of all ages. Next season we plan to make even more improvements.”
The renovations certainly made an impact among baseball fans: the Silver Hawks will end up drawing over 175,000 fans this season, a far cry from the 112,00 in attendance in 2011.
“The ballpark improvements bought fun back to the ballpark,” Reichard said. “In a time of tight municipal budgets, it’s good to see a public-private partnership work so well. Baseball is synonymous with family entertainment, and families in South Bend are certain reaping the benefits of the Covaleski Stadium makeover.”
ABOUT THE BALLPARK DIGEST AWARDS
Each year Ballpark Digest honors noteworthy accomplishments in the baseball world, whether it be Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, independent baseball, summer-collegiate baseball or college baseball. Readers are asked to submit nominations for awards in specific categories; Ballpark Digest editors then go though the submissions (numbering some 3500 pages of documentation last year). The awards cover both individual accomplishments as well as team accomplishments. This is the fourth season for the Ballpark Digest Awards. A complete listing of Ballpark Digest Awards can be found at ballparkdigest.com/awards.
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