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In the past few years, several buildings have been significantly renovated or built in downtown South Bend. There’s the former LaSalle and Hoffman hotels, which were turned into apartment buildings, as well as the new Saint Joseph High School that moved the school downtown a few years ago.
Still, one of the most significant additions might be one that the South Bend community doesn’t talk about as much.
Since the spring of 2015, the South Bend Cubs have played at Four Winds Field at Coveleski Stadium — once home to the South Bend Silver Hawks. The deal to bring the Cubs’ single-A affiliate to South Bend was signed in September 2014 by current owner and chairman Andrew Berlin. A sticking point of the deal was that the stadium build a performance center, which would show a commitment to developing players in the Cubs organization.
“They wanted a legitimate hitting facility — they wanted updated cage,” says Mark Haley, the director of training and instruction at the First Source Bank Performance Center. “Because before we used to hit in the tunnel, which I put up in 1991. It was dated.”
When the deal was signed, the Cubs’ general manager Theo Epstein never thought the new performance center would get done in time, but it did thanks to help from the community.
“At one time I counted 75 guys in here working on this stuff,” Mark says. “It was agreed upon in October and by April 4 it was up and ready. … They were hustling and bustling. That’s how it all got started. This was the main attraction to get them to come here.”
Since then, minor league baseball in South Bend has been booming. The South Bend Cubs have been breaking attendance records, and two luxury apartment buildings have been added behind left and right-center field.
But while the First Source Performance Center has allowed the South Bend Cubs to become an epicenter for entertainment in downtown South Bend, the facility does so much more the for the community.
Open roughly 350 days out of the year, the performance center is used by people of all ages in the community, from kids barely old enough to hold a bat to grandparents in their 70s who want to teach the game they love to their grandchildren. The cages and trainers at the facility offer everyone in the South Bend area a chance to refine and develop their baseball or softball skills.
The cages can be rented by the half hour or hour for $55 (it’s free or $5 for members) or tokens for the pitching machine can be purchased. The performance center offers token packages, where a hitter can buy one token for $3, which gets them 15 swings; 15 tokens for $40, which gets them 225 swings or 50 tokens for $125, which gets them 750 swings.
The performance center can also be used for a fun night out with that special someone.
“A lot of times we’ve had guys come in here on dates,” Mark says.
The batting cages are open during South Bend Cubs games to anyone who has a ticket and has an urge to bat.
Outside of the South Bend Cubs players, the most frequent users of the performance center are local youth softball and baseball players. The Cubs are the only minor league baseball organization to have its own youth travel teams, which play in tournaments across the country. Other local teams also come in and use the facility.
The performance center also manages the South Bend Cubs Foundation, which gives back to the community in a multitude of ways. First they provide weekly tutoring for all students in third grade through high school to come the performance center and get tutored for free by Indiana University-South Bend students, many of which are baseball players.
“It’s free of charge,” says Brandon Lis, performance center operations manager. “It’s a partnership with the foundation and IUSB.”
The foundation also offers several college scholarships every year, and is always looking to find new ways to help youth in the South Bend community.