A Second Vision For South Bend’s First Park

The first of its kind in many respects, Howard Park is about to become one of South Bend’s most prized assets. Although this project is quite expansive – altering the entire landscape of the park – it’s not the first time this piece of land was transformed.  

Once South Bend’s trash dump and breeding ground for diseases like malaria in the summer months, Howard Park wasn’t considered an actual park until June 1894. The Board of Park Commissioners approved the conversion of the city’s dump site and recommended the construction of a seawall along the riverfront. After a cleanup of the grounds, the park opened with an official name of “Howard Park” to the public on August 18, 1899.  

Over the years, the park blossomedMature trees began filling in, the greenspace a welcomed piece of land for many. In 1959, Howard Park once again began another transformative period, when officials broke ground on the ice-skating rink and community center.  

“My dad ran the parks system in [the mid-sixties] to the 1980’s during a time when they were developing a lot of things. I grew up during the formative years in South Bend,” said Jim Seitz, President of 1st Source Bank. “The ice rink was a big draw for downtown. At the time, there were no other ice facilities like we have now at Notre Dame and the Ice Box.” 

The ice rink spanned for 58 years and was the source of multi-generational memories. As a result of three key components including intense community feedback, proximity to the riverfront, and importance within the park system, Howard Park was identified as a “high priority site” in the 2014 Master Plan2 

The skating rink will return to Howard Park with a 16,000squarefoot ice trail and pond. The trail is dramatically different from the typical ice-skating rink many can remember. Visitors will enjoy nearly a quarter of a mile of ice, looping over a bridge and through small hills and valleys. The trail is one of the first in the world to have a bridge; below is the entrance to a 13,000squarefoot ADA accessible playground. 

Take a walk across the lush, green lawn space just outside the state-of-the-art playground and you’ll never know the history this park has had. The urban park boasts a brand-new four-season venue, is proudly LEED-certified and outfitted with energy efficient technologies.  

Howard Park Community Center will host a variety of activities for all ages. Start your morning practicing yoga, enjoy a birthday party in one of the rentable rooms, or warm up in front of the fireplace on a brisk evening. Howard Park will be a place to make memories for years to come. It has seen its fair share of changes, but what remains the same – it’s a park for you. Stop and experience everything it has to offer and make a new memory along the way. 

Did you know:
55,982 feet of plumbing in the ice trail/pond
30% increase in the trees planted in the park
6,102 yards of concrete poured at Howard Park

Welcome Back, Howard Park.