Silver Hawks president visits NilesPublished 5:49pm Monday, March 5, 2012
The new president of the South Bend Silver Hawks wants the minor league baseball team to be more than South Bend’s team. Joe Hart wants it to be a regional draw.
To that end, Hart was in Niles Monday speaking to the Niles-Buchanan Rotary Club during the club’s noon lunch at the Riverfront Café.
Hart talked about the numerous changes planned for the Silver Hawks since Andrew Berlin, owner of Chicago-based Berlin Packaging, purchased the club late last year.
The Silver Hawk’s ballpark, Coveleski Stadium, is undergoing $4 million worth of renovations, $2.3 million of which is being funded by Berlin.
They will be adding premium outdoor suites and replacing the aluminum bench seating with theater-style seats at the ballpark. A splash park, playground and inflatable area will be added for children.
Hart said only 15 percent to 20 percent of people that come to Silver Hawks games are baseball purists. The rest are there to relax, have fun and be entertained.
“That’s what our focus is. We want to make the ballpark a social-gathering point,” Hart said. “Yes, the game is going on as the backdrop, but there are going to be other activities going on.”
The Silver Hawks will be adding new promotions to increase the fan experience, including flat-screen Fridays. During every Friday night home game, the Silver Hawks will give away a 32-inch flat screen television every inning.
“Over the course of the summer, we will be giving away over 120-plus flat-screen TVs, so you have a good chance of coming out and winning one,” Hart said.
The Silver Hawks will also be doing fireworks shows 13 times during the season at a cost of about $80,000.
“We know it is a great thing that people enjoy seeing so we want to make it bigger and better than what it was in the past,” Hart said.
The ownership group is also making strides to improve stadium staff and the quality of food and beverages.
“We want to get to the point where we are drawing 250,000 plus much like it did back in the late ‘90s. We know it will take time,” Hart said. “We recognize we have to earn your business, earn your trust, and that’s what this year is for us. We want to show how we are different.”
The Silver Hawks are the minor league affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Hart, who has worked in minor league baseball for 17 years, said they would likely sign a two-year extension with the Diamondbacks when their agreement expires at the end of this season.