SOUTH BEND — “We needed to have winds beneath our wings,” said South Bend city councilman Oliver Davis.
Now the city’s Class A minor league baseball team has four.
The South Bend Silver Hawks announced Thursday, Sept. 5, an agreement with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, owners of Four Winds Resorts, to take on the naming rights of the downtown ballpark.
It is now known as Four Winds Field at Coveleski Stadium. In a nod to the Baseball Hall of Famer and former South Bend resident, a bronze statue of “Covey” will be placed at the center field entrance to the stadium.
Davis took the line from the song made popular by Bette Midler to describe the revitalization of the park since Chicago businessman Andrew Berlin purchased club in late 2011.
The sentiment was echoed by Richard Nussbaum, vice president and legal counsel for the Midwest League of Professional Baseball and a South Bend resident.
“I’ve never seen anyone turn around a franchise so quickly (or use resources so wisely),” said Nussbaum.
The Silver Hawks had been in jeopardy of leaving town following the 2006 season when Joe Kernan headed up a group to buy the club and keep it in the River City.
“(The new agreement) is another validation of the decision to keep the team in South Bend,” said Nussbaum.
Berlin, owner of Berlin Packaging, said the agreement with the Pokagon Band will help relieve the economic burden on taxpayers and transfer it to the private sector.
“I made a promise,” said Berlin of the day he signed on to buy the team on 11-11-11 — a date he considers lucky. “A lot of passion and hard work went into this.
“This vote of confidence will draw in more business (and residents) to South Bend.”
The agreement is for 10 years with a five-year option.
“Taxpayers won’t have to invest another dime for capital improvements at the stadium for at least a decade, probably longer,” said Berlin.
Berlin said other companies were considered for naming rights, but it made sense to go with the Pokagons given their history and impact on the Michiana region.
“The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians is the only federally recognized sovereign Indian nation in the state of Indiana, and given that we have a large concentration of our citizens living in the area, we feel that it is important to continue to give back to the community,” said Matt Wesaw, chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. “The Silver Hawks have been in South Bend since 1988 and we are proud to help ensure their future and the economic benefits that baseball brings to South Bend.”
“The Silver Hawks have helped spark renewed excitement in South Bend, bringing thousands downtown, and I applaud them for their many efforts to create an exciting experience for fans,” said South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg.
South Bend ranked seventh in the 16-team Midwest League in 2013 regular-season attendance with 237,448 — an average of 3,598 for 66 home dates.