The South Bend Silver Hawks are officially a class A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. The deal, which is expected to run through 2018, will bring the Cubs organization to South Bend from Kane County, Illinois, a Chicago suburb.
“Today is a turning point,” Silver Hawks owner Andrew Berlin said today. “I made a promise to the local community and government officials who welcomed me with open arms three years ago. I promised that I would return the team to its former glory days. And I promised that I’d do everything I could to bring people back to South Bend and prove that this is a wonderful place to invest in.”
“Now, one of the best and most beloved brands in the history of Major League Baseball is making a bold statement about this place too!” Berlin added. “The Chicago Cubs are giving South Bend and this whole region a big vote of confidence.”
As the Chicago Tribune points out, the Cubs are giving South Bend a chance, even “after two successful seasons with Kane County, which promised upgrades to its facility that included a climate-controlled batting cage, an expanded weight room and a video room for players and coaches for evaluation purposes at Fifth Third Bank in Geneva.”
Four Winds Field at Coveleski Stadium in downtown South Bend has already seen around $5 million in upgrades with new seating, a jumbotron in right field, a water play area for kids, and concession stand improvements, among others. In the off-season this year, the franchise hopes to break ground on a new 11,000 sq ft batting facility that will be open year round. It will be operated as a training facility that the whole community can use. The Chicago Tribune also says that the team will remove the infield’s artificial turf in favor of natural grass as part of the Cubs agreement.
The Silver Hawks just came off of their best year ever in terms of attendance. Over a quarter million people visited the ballpark to take in a game this summer. Three of their players were named Midwest League All-Stars as the team went to the playoffs.
“It is very exciting because as an organization we have worked hard to engage the community,” team president Joe Hart told the South Bend Voice prior to beating the attendance record. “We have the best fans in baseball and I am excited for the community to have an opportunity to break this record. It is not every day a franchise sets a new attendance record 27 years into their existence.”
The strong attendance, support from the community, and facility improvements certainly helped to attract the attention of the Cubs.
“And I have to add that the Cubs management team was tremendously impressed by the rich tradition of winning demonstrated historically by area schools, colleges and universities throughout this region,” Berlin said. “This is not just a sports town. It’s a place made of champions.”
The team will announce a new name, logo and uniform on September 25.