It took 12 hours into a new year in The Bend for a glimpse at the future.
Notre Dame Stadium, as it often does, took center stage Jan. 1 for a national audience. No, the storied football program didn’t somehow score a home game in the postseason. Instead the NHL put a rink on the field for the Winter Classic.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins faced off in what turned out to be the second-most attended Winter Classic in history. Fans flocked from different corners of the continent to see the event in person.Hosting the Winter Classic was a boon to the local economy during what’s usually a slower period. It also served as an indicator of what’s to come in 2019.
This year promises to be an extraordinary one for tourism in our area.
Some notable things happened in 2018: Notre Dame’s football team turned an undefeated regular season into a College Football Playoff berth; Motocross of Nations brought competitors and fans in from around the world; country music star Garth Brooks played Notre Dame Stadium’s first concert.
But 2019 looks like it will be even bigger. The Winter Classic, an outdoor Notre Dame hockey game later in January, John Mellencamp’s tour kickoff in February and a nearly weeklong stay for Les Misérables, one of the world’s most popular musicals, in March are just a warmup act.
Spring and summer are when 2019 comes into bloom. Consider some of the other major events this year:
- Youth hockey is a major driver of tourism in The Bend and that will be on full display April 3-8 during the USA Hockey 14U Tier II National Championships. Compton Family Ice Arena and the Ice Box will host three classes, 40 teams and 77 games over the course of five days. The event’s impact? Around 2,500 hotel room nights.
- IDEA Week returns from April 8-13 for its second edition. The entrepreneurship and innovation festival is bringing in renowned keynote speakers like Bill Nye. It’s the entertainment, however, that really turns heads. Country music star Tim McGraw headlines a group that includes comic Ali Wong and magician Michael Carbonaro.
- Sunburst Races, one of Northern Indiana’s biggest running events, returns to The Bend on June 1. Participants start in downtown South Bend and finish in unique fashion — at the 50-yard line of Notre Dame Stadium. Participants can take on a 5K fitness walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon. Afterward you can celebrate the accomplishment of finishing at restaurants and bars around Notre Dame and downtown South Bend.
- Baseball is always a big part of The Bend’s summers. South Bend Cubs games are wildly popular, and Four Winds Field has been nationally recognized as one of the best parks in minor league baseball. Now the club gets an even bigger stage as it hosts the Midwest League All-Star Game (June 17-19) for the first time in 30 years. Worldwide music superstar Pitbull is kicking off the festivities June 16 with a concert at Four Winds Field. The event will also include a Fan Fest, Home Run Derby and a firework show.
- It’s going to be a huge year for golf in the area. South Bend’s first course opened 100 years ago, and the city will be celebrating the milestone all summer. So, it’s fitting that a major tournament is being held in town too. Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame is host of this year’s U.S. Senior Open (June 24-30), marking the first time a USGA event has been held on a college campus. Over 100,000 fans are expected during championship week.
- There are car shows and then there are car shows. Concours d’Elegance at Copshaholm is the latter. Studebaker National Museum partners with The History Museum for this yearly display of automotive excellence, now in its second edition. Classic cars from all over the world (like the one pictured below from the 2018 event) will be displayed July 13 on the grounds of the Oliver Mansion. It’s sure to be a stunning collection.
- Two of the world’s biggest soccer clubs — Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund — meet in The Bend on July 19 for a preseason friendly. Liverpool is hosting the match at Notre Dame Stadium, one of the most historic sports venues in the United States.
- August brings back Art Beat, one of the biggest arts festivals in the region. Then there’s Party in the Park, an annual concert at Four Winds Field. Fans from all over the region are sure to visit for this year’s headliner: Snoop Dogg. Both events are Aug. 17.
After all that, plus a slew of other events not mentioned here, another football season begins.
Notre Dame plays seven home games during the 2019 season, starting Sept. 14 against New Mexico. Highlights on the home slate include matchups with USC and Navy. Perhaps it will result in another undefeated, playoff-caliber campaign. It’s hard to say.
One thing is certain: By the time the Irish wrap up their season, we’ll be looking toward the end of 2019 and talking about what a great year it’s been.
We’re confident The Bend will offer up many lasting memories and worthwhile experiences in the coming months. What will yours be?