By STEVE KRAH
Berlin has used the strategies that have made him successful as a businessman, attorney and philanthropist in Chicago and brought about growth in downtown South Bend, where he enters his eighth season of owning a professional baseball franchise in 2019.
In November 2011, Berlin reached an agreement to purchase the South Bend Silver Hawks. He signed a 20-year agreement with the city of South Bend for the use of Coveleski Regional Stadium.
South Bend ended a 17-year affiliation with the Arizona Diamondbacks and began its first Player Development Contract with the Chicago Cubs beginning with the 2015 season. The current PDC ties South Bend and Chicago together through 2022.
Berlin says the South Bend Cubs have the advantage of being able to leverage the Chicago Cubs brand.
“There’s a lot of interest there,” says Berlin, 58. There has been talk about bringing the South Shore Line and its access to the Windy City to Downtown South Bend with the station a short walk from the ballpark.
Along the way, the park has had a name change to Four Winds Field. Millions of dollars have gone into renovations and other amenities, including the 1st Source Bank Performance Center and apartment buildings — The Ivy at Berlin Place — that are slated for completion this spring (Berlin signed the lease for the first of 121 units and expects to be in town for each homestand during a regular season which goes from April 4 to Sept. 2).
The Midwest League All-Star Game returns to South Bend for the first time since 1989 and three days of events are planned June 16-18.
Berlin and his off-field team, which now includes about 375 full-time and seasonal employees, including president Joe Hart, relish their role in South Bend and the surrounding area.
“The health of the city is something we take seriously,” says Berlin. “We’re not a government entity. We’re a private corporation. But we see the South Bend Cubs is part of the public trust, if you will.
“It belongs to the community in spirt and in soul. For us a happy and successful community is a happy and successful club. The team does better when the city’s doing better.”
Berlin sees it as a duty for his organization to impact areas like education and charity. He’s witnessed good being done by many entities not as high profile as a professional sports team.
“All of us here at the South Bend Cubs see it important to be giving back to the community,” says Berlin. “We want to see the tax revenues growing in the city so the city can invest money in infrastructure and reducing the amount of crime in the area — not just by more policing but providing more opportunities for the folks that are committing the crimes.
“They might see crime as the only path to financial success or relevance.”
Berlin went to California to learn more about the concept of what has been called “conscious capitalism.”
“It is good business to engage the community and help the community around you,” says Berlin. “Some people call it karma. Some people call it you get what you give.
“But as long as we’re a giving organization, the community ends up — whether consciously or subconsciously — rewarding us.
“We’re here to make a profit and support our employees with good wages,” says Berlin. “I delight in the fact that we’ve hired more people. We three times more employees now than there were eight years ago.”
Through games, concerts and other events, the club hopes to bring 400,000 or more people to Four Winds Field which allows more chances to give back.
“We’re helping folks out by doing a lot of philanthropic things,” says Berlin. “Giving money to worthy organizations that do a lot of good work. We do a lot of vetting of those organizations to assure it’s not going toward administrative costs.
“It’s very much a part of the heart and soul of the organization.”
SOUTH BEND CUBS
Thursday, April 4
• Home and Season Opener vs. West Michigan, 7:05 p.m.
Midwest League All-Star Game Festivities
Sunday, June 16
• All-Star Concert at Four Winds Field (artist to be announced in the coming weeks).
Monday, June 17
• Fan Fest with autograph sessions with six former Chicago Cubs players, including Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins and Andre Dawson plus East and West All-Stars. Proceeds from Fan Fest ticket sales will go to one of five charities selected by the fans (Beacon Children’s Hospital. Logan Center, Pet Refuge, South Bend Education Foundation or United Way of St. Joseph County)
• Home Run Derby featuring MWL All-Stars.
• 2016 World Series trophy will be at the park.
Tuesday, June 18
MWL All-Star Game Luncheon at Century Center, 11:30 a.m. with keynote speaker and Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.
MWL All-Star Game, 7:35 p.m. The game will be broadcast live locally by WMYS (My Michiana) and regionally by WCIU (The U Too in Chicago) for the first time in league history. South Bend Cubs broadcaster Darin Pritchett will have the TV call.
Approximately 3,000 tickets have been sold for the All-Star Game and 500 tickets have sold for the All-Star Luncheon.
• Dog Day Mondays. Fans can bring their dogs to the ballpark and fans can enjoy $2 hot dogs, $2 popcorn and $2 peanuts. There will be free Fun Zone wristbands for ages 12-and-under. This excludes May 27 and Aug. 12.
• $2 Tuesdays. Fans may purchase $2 tickets in advance for Tuesday games — online only. The offer is valid for April 14, May 7, May 28, Jine 4 and Aug. 6.
• New theme nights include Polish Heritage Night (Thursday, April 25), PBS Kids Day (Sunday, June 23 and Sunday, June 30) and Dino Day (July 11). Full descriptions and theme days are available on SouthBendCubs.com.
• Fans are invited to share their photos and videos taken at the ballpark all season long by submitting them on MySouthBendCubs.com.
• Two April Saturday dates will have 4:05 p.m. start times with gates opening at 2.
• The “Sweet Spot” dessert stand, located beside Gates A, is a new concession option. It will feature hand-dipped novelty ice creams and elephant ears and takes the place of the former Burgertopia location. Burgertopia is getting its own separate stand on the first base side concourse. An Italian sausage sandwich with peppers and onions has been added to the menu.
• Loaded tots will be served for $5 at the Waveland and Sheffield stands.
• Fresh Squeezed Lemonade will be available beginning in May.
Andrew T. Berlin, owner and chairman of the South Bend (Ind.) Cubs, has his minor league baseball franchise practicing “conscious capitalism.”