READI Funds to Enhance Arts and Culture Amenities in the South Bend – Elkhart Region

ELKHART, Ind. (Oct. 4, 2022) — On September 19, the South Bend – Elkhart Regional Development Authority (RDA) approved Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) grant funding to support 19 quality of place projects. Of the 19, three are strategically focused on enhancing regional arts and culture amenities, totaling over $3.7 million in READI allocated funds. These projects include the Morris Performing Arts Center “Morris 100 Project”, Potawatomi Zoo Concession Lodge and Black Bear Habitat, and the Wellfield Botanic Gardens Visitor Center.

“As a region, we are committed to attracting and retaining talent by helping develop and enhance the cultural amenities in communities throughout the region and beyond,” said Dallas Bergl, RDA Vice Chair and President and CEO of INOVA Federal Credit Union. “These projects have been major attractions in the South Bend – Elkhart region for many years, the Zoo and the Morris for over 100. We are not only investing in the projects, but in the future success of our region and its residents.”

Morris Performing Arts Center “Morris 100 Project”
The Morris Performing Arts Center “Morris 100” project includes upgrades to modernize the theater-going experience, make it more safe, relevant, accessible, and a stronger economic driver. It also includes a building addition, redeveloped public park, new performance spaces, new on-site parking garage, and the creation of an arts equity program. Elevating the facility to larger market status will make the venue more exciting for the region’s residents, distinctive and compelling to visitors outside the region, and augment the ability to secure national touring acts.

  • Total Project Investment: $30 million
  • RDA Allocation: $1.5 million

“We are grateful for the RDA’s vote of confidence in this project, to the State of Indiana for making this opportunity possible, and also for the community who is personally investing in the next 100 years of this major regional attraction,” said Aaron Perri, Executive Director, Venues Parks and Arts, City of South Bend.

Potawatomi Zoo Concession Lodge and Black Bear Habitat
The Potawatomi Zoo is embarking on Phase 3 of its $37 million Master Plan, with a Concession Lodge and Black Bear Habitat, as well as a modern Amur tiger exhibit and upgraded lion habitat. The Lodge will look directly into the bear habitat, allowing visitors to dine next to these amazing animals. This amenity will accommodate increased attendance now exceeding 300,000 – an increase of 100,000 visitors since 2020.

  • Total Project Investment: $10.7 million
  • RDA Allocation: $1.07 million

“It has been amazing to see our small local community zoo evolve into a true regional destination,” said Josh Sisk, Executive Director of Potawatomi Zoo. “Receiving the RDA allocation recognizes the zoo as a quality-of-life amenity with an economic impact to our region. We look forward to embarking on this next exciting phase of our Master Plan.”

Wellfield Botanic Gardens Visitor Center
The Wellfield Botanic Gardens Visitor Center project will support two elements of Wellfield’s Master Plan expansion as part of its $15 million project — the relocation and repurposing of the existing Visitors Cottage and associated infrastructure and construction of a 3-acre onsite parking expansion. The number and percentage of Wellfield’s guests coming from further distances is increasing, particularly for special events like Winter Wonderland Holiday Lights, which has grown from 8,000 guests in 2017 to over 28,000 guests in 2021. The READI investment complements $10,700,000 raised from donors and other sources through the summer of 2022.

  • Total Project Investment: $15 million
  • RDA Allocation: $1.2 million

“Wellfield is grateful to be receiving READI funding supporting our Visitors Center Project to meet the increasing needs of our community and region while increasing our mission effectiveness and sustainability for the future,” said Eric Garton, Robert and Peggy Weed Executive Director at Wellfield Botanic Gardens. “The project will deliver increased quality of place through transformational guest experiences, promotes economic development and velocity, and encourages diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Launched by Gov. Holcomb and led by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), READI encourages regional collaboration and data-driven, long-term planning that will attract and retain talent in Indiana. The $500 million READI fund was passed by legislation during the 2021 session and was divided among 17 regions. The IEDC awarded the maximum grant amount of $50 million each to five of the regions, including the South Bend – Elkhart region. Awards for the other regions ranged from $5 to 30 million.

For more information about the South Bend – Elkhart region’s READI grant, click here.

To learn more about the READI grant program, click here.

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About South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership
The South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership is a collaboration of the economic development partners from 47 smart connected communities in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan. The South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership focuses on a long-term systemic approach to advance the region’s economy by aligning the efforts of various stakeholders around five key areas: educating a world-class workforce, recruiting and retaining great talent, attracting and growing new economy companies in complement to our remarkably strong manufacturing industries, promoting inclusion and sparking opportunities for minorities and helping entrepreneurs thrive. The South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership seeks to unify and collaborate so that together, the communities across the region to work together to achieve what cannot be done individually. For more information about the Regional Partnership, visit SouthBendElkhart.org.

About the South Bend – Elkhart Regional Development Authority (RDA)
Formed in 2015, the South Bend – Elkhart Regional Development Authority (RDA) represents the three Indiana counties of Elkhart, Marshall, and St. Joseph. The RDA is overseen by a five-member board, each appointed by the mayors and commissioners of member counties and municipalities. The RDA is committed to the continued improvement of the South Bend – Elkhart region and receives staffing support from the South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership, the lead regional economic development organization for the region.

Media Contacts
Morris Performing Arts Center
Allison Zeithammer
azeithammer@southbendin.gov

Potawatomi Zoo
Kristina Barroso Burell
kbarrosoburrell@potawatomizoo.org

Wellfield Botanic Gardens
Eric Garton
e.garton@wellfieldgardens.org

South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership
Sarah Niespodziany
sniespodziany@southbendelkhart.org