Progressive Field set for $435m revamp

Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise the Cleveland Indians has committed to remain at Progressive Field until at least 2036, with the 35,000-seat ballpark set to receive a package of renovations worth $435m (£312.7m/€368.4m).

Officials from the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, the State of Ohio and the Indians have agreed a collaboration for the future preservation and enhancement of Progressive Field. With appropriate legislative approval in the coming months, the project will aim to improve and extend the life of the publicly owned ballpark, which having opened in 1994 is the 11th oldest stadium in MLB.

The Indians, which last month announced they would rebrand to the Cleveland Guardians from next season, originally signed a 20-year lease, which was later extended by 10 years through 2023. The Indians’ status as a small-market club with an expiring lease deal had led to speculation that it could be open for relocation.

However, the prospective agreement announced yesterday (Thursday) will extend the lease of the team for at least 15 years to 2036, plus the potential for 10 additional years to 2046. Funding for the project will be supported by all four entities (State, City, County, Indians) with no new or increased taxes for residents.

“This project ensures that Progressive Field remains competitive in the future and guarantees that baseball remains in Cleveland until at least 2036,” said Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.

“We are one of a few cities that have three major sports teams all located in a central business district. This shows that sports are important to the economic vitality of our hospitality industry and baseball specifically is critical to Cleveland’s future.”

Paul Dolan, owner of the Indians, added: “Our organisation is proud to continue our long-term commitment to Cleveland by ensuring we keep our ballpark competitive. We want to give our fans, our community, and our players the best ballpark experience possible.

“We are excited and appreciate the collaborative effort displayed by leadership from the county, city, and state to help make this first step possible and look forward to the next stages in the legislative process to finalise the agreement.”

The potential deal will provide funding for fan-friendly investments. Those enhancements include transforming the left field experience inclusive of the Terrace Club, re-imagining the upper deck concourse, and creating a larger Dugout level social space, among others.

A portion of the improvements will be funded privately by the Cleveland Indians, with the County, City, and State co-funding the balance.

The overall proposed deal, in addition to fan friendly improvements, includes necessary funding for capital repairs, maintenance, Gateway operations, and property taxes. The City and County collectively will contribute $17m annually, and the State will contribute $2m annually. The Indians organisation will add $10m annually, $4.5m of which will be dedicated towards ballpark improvements.

Since 1994, the Indians have paid more than $179m for maintenance, repairs, capital expenditures and operating costs to maintain competitiveness despite the ballpark being a publicly owned facility.

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said: “Updating Progressive Field is much less costly than building new. New venues typically cost about $1bn without considering any maintenance or repairs over time. This is a responsible investment in a public asset to maintain its competitiveness.”

Speaking at a press conference, Budish added: “We had three options: renovate, build a new ballpark or risk losing the team. To their credit, the Indians never threatened to sell or relocate but we understand the business of professional baseball and we didn’t want to take that risk.”

Dolan states that while the team’s long-term future is now locked in Cleveland, the plan is for the ballpark renovations to be delivered in the short-term.

He said: “Quicker is definitely the answer. You want to utilise these dollars in the early stage of the lease so we can enjoy the benefits of those improvements. And they’re needed now. So, I’d imagine you’ll see these improvements in the first five years, if not sooner.”

Image: Chris Chow on Unsplash