Sports have a major impact on The Bend’s economy.
Notre Dame football home games, along with those of other major sports at the university, draw visitors from all over the country. Yet how sports interact with the community goes far beyond Notre Dame.
Youth sports — hockey, lacrosse, swimming, baseball and more — are significant drivers of visitor activity in the area. Couple that with the occasional professional event and you have a dynamic, year-round sports scene.
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But with coronavirus and its impact on large gatherings, 2020 is shaping up a little different. Tournaments and other events have been postponed or canceled outright. Whole seasons, like those of the South Bend Lions and South Bend Cubs, have been scrubbed.
Sports, however, are on the rebound. Phased reopening in Indiana opens the door for games to begin again. Here’s a look at how things are shaping up.
America’s Youth on Parade
The biggest baton twirling competition in the country, AYOP has been held in the The Bend for decades. Organizers canceled this year’s event (scheduled for July 21-25) and will resume in 2021.
South Bend has become an undisputed youth hockey destination since the opening of Compton Family Ice Arena at Notre Dame. Compton pairs with the Ice Box to host tournaments practically every weekend throughout the season. Hockey Time Productions and 200×85 combined to put on 10 events from January until coronavirus-related shutdowns. They resulted in 10,289 room nights from 18,015 attendees and a $5.4 million economic impact.
Lacrosse is among the first sports to bounce back into action. Although Rip the Duck postponed, overall events increased from three to eight. The Pipe City Lacrosse Festival (July 11-12) generated 1,136 room nights; Rip the Wave (July 18-19) brought in another 400; the Ohio Lacrosse Festival moved to Indiana for July 25-26. More are planned into the fall.
After hosting the 2019 U.S. Senior Open at Warren Golf Course, The Bend has cemented itself as a premier Midwest golf destination. It’s not just one major event, however, that lends to this reputation. Blackthorn Golf Club has hosted the Four Winds Invitational, an LPGA Symetra Tour event, for years. It returns (Aug. 31-Sept. 6) after being rescheduled. Knollwood Country Club will have youth golfers from around the country on one of its courses from July 26-30 for an American Junior Golf Association event. Last year the AJGA event attracted 96 players total from 19 states and five countries.
Bowling was set to emerge in 2020 as a major theme thanks in large part to one event – the Midwest Women’s Bowling Tournament. Unfortunately, it’s been pushed back a year. Spanning multiple weekends from May 21-June 27, the tournament expects approximately 1,500 bowlers. Singles and doubles competitions will be held at Chippewa Bowl in South Bend. Signature Lanes in Elkhart is hosting the team events.
All eyes in the motocross world typically turn to Redbud MX on July 4 as the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship swings through nearby Buchanan, Mich. This year Redbud was awarded two races — one on Sept. 4 and another Sept. 7, both to be conducted without fans.
All the sudden, South Bend has become a regular stop for cornhole events. The American Cornhole League hosted a qualifying event June 5-6 at the 1st Source Bank Performance Center/Four Winds Field, complete with social distancing in place and a live ESPN broadcast. The American Cornhole Organization plans to be back at Century Center Nov. 27-28. The events combine to bring in over 300 players.
Other Notable Events
For the first time, The Bend is home to a darts tournament. The Arachnid 360 Indiana Bullshooter Regional took place at the Ramada by Wyndham from Jan. 17-19 … The Hometown Days Wiffleball Tournament took place July 25-26 in New Carlisle. It welcomes about 70 teams a year.