Attendance at South Bend Silver Hawks games has topped 200,000 for the second consecutive year, and this year, the team has a legitimate shot at breaking the all-time franchise record.
“It’s been on our radar,” said Silver Hawks General Manager Joe Hart. “Obviously with good weather the rest of the way we think we have a very good chance of hitting that.”
The attendance record dates back to 1994 when the turnstiles topped out at 258,424, and yes, the record—like so many in baseball today—comes with its own asterisk.
“The unique thing was, that (1994) was the year of the major league baseball strike so the only game in town was minor league baseball at the time,” said Hart.
Yet a mere average finish to the 2014 season is all it would take to put the 2014 Hawks over the top attendance-wise, although not by much.
The team needs to draw 44,052 fans to tie the record and this season the Hawks have been averaging 3,761 fans a game with 12 home games left.
If history repeated itself, the team would break the all-time attendance record by 1,080.
“It's going to be up to, you know, the weather folks, we really need their help,” said Hart. “We’ve got 12 games in the next 15 days so they're all kind of crammed in together. If we're going to squeeze some rain in, there aren't a whole lot of days to do it.”
So far this season the Hawks have seen just one game rained out.
The new owners certainly have a deep seeded desire to see the old record fall, and a keen appreciation of what an unusual accomplishment that would be.
“Most teams don’t set franchise records 27 years into their existence,” said Hart. “Most teams do it, if they do set that new franchise record, it’s because they've moved in from an old stadium into a new stadium.”
When asked if Four Winds Field needed more seating, Hart replied, “Ultimately, at the end of the day, maybe we do need to put in more seats because our Friday and Saturday games we’re sold out of seats, we’re into standing room only. We’ve been in standing room only every Friday, I think, since the first of June. Yet, Hart said he would like to see sell outs during for some weekday games before adding more seats.
As for future improvements, Hart says one thing being talked about now is the construction of a 10,000 square foot year round batting facility built beyond right field.
Hart believes the facility may help the Hawks develop stronger ties with youth leagues in the area.