A rendering of the revamped upper deck at Progressive Field. Renovations will include a two-story bar and expanded programming for kids.
Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a multimillion-dollar makeover.
The 43,368-capacity ballpark, the home to Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians, will undergo renovations after this offseason with an aim of enhancing the fan experience and drawing more young professionals and families to games.
The improvements to Progressive Field (formerly known as Jacobs Field) include a two-story bar in right field; moving the bullpens to center field for closer fan viewing; expanding a kids clubhouse to two levels; revamping the field’s Gate C entrance; and creating group seating in right field. The Indians will also incorporate local neighborhood-themed food areas and more elements of the team’s history throughout the venue, including a statue honoring baseball legend Larry Doby.
“We’re really looking to completely change the fan experience through the renovated areas,” Andrew Miller, senior VP of strategy and business analytics for the Indians, told Venues Today. “This should change the entire way that fans interact, whether it’s for an Indians game or another event.
The renovations will decrease the venue’s capacity by about 5,000, putting it somewhere between 37,000 and 38,000, according to Miller. He said the reduction of seats and suites will be offset by the addition of social gathering areas.
With private funding from the Indians and the team’s food and beverage partner, Delaware North Companies Sportservice, the project is scheduled for completion by spring 2015. Miller declined to reveal the cost of the enhancements. Architects involved in the project, which has been dubbed “Progressive Field Evolution,” are Populous, ChaseDesign and Weber Murphy Fox. Gilbane has been tapped as the construction management firm.
The updated entrance at Gate C.
The renovation concepts were developed over a four-year period after Indians and Delaware North Companies Sportservice officials visited roughly 20 sporting facilities, including St. Louis’ Busch Stadium, Denver’s Coors Field and Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park. The visits, which also included football stadiums and basketball/hockey arenas, were part of an effort to discover new facility trends and how they could be applied to Progressive Field.
“What we found were a number of trends that we wanted to incorporate,” Miller explained. “Those trends included more social spaces for fans to connect with each other, more connections between the city and ballpark, more targeted segmented fan areas, and an increased use of team heritage and the city.”
Chris Angne, general manager of Delaware North Companies Sportservice at Progressive Field, said his biggest takeaway from the experience is the continual growth of the local trend at the ballparks. “You’re always going to have your top 10 items that fans are going to enjoy, like hot dogs, popcorn, nachos and soft pretzels. But they also want to get that local flare in the ballpark,” he said.
As such, Sportservice will bring more of a hometown feel to Progressive Field by introducing 10 new food and beverage concepts as part of the renovations.
“Those are all going to be tied back to the local communities here in Cleveland,” said Angne, noting that Delaware North Companies extended its contract last year with Progressive Field for another 10 years. The company has served as the food and beverage provider for the field since it opened in 1994.
Part of the four-year research also included direct input from Indians fans. “We did focus groups and fan research, both specific to the ballpark and generally, to understand our brand and what people are looking for when coming to Indians games,” Miller said.
Delaware North Companies Sportservice participated in those focus groups as well. “We talked not only about what fans were looking for in renovations at Progressive Field, but also what they’re looking for in food and beverage, and what type of hometown concepts or food products would resonate with them,” said Angne, whose company also works with Ohio’s Nationwide Arena and Great American Ballpark.
Indians executives are hoping the revamp will improve attendance at games, which dropped from 3.46 million in 1999 to 1.57 million last season, according to Associated Press. The team is averaging about 18,659 fans per game this season, the second-smallest crowd in the league.
Beyond the current project, the Indians have further plans to improve Progressive Field in the near future.
“We’ll have some more in the next couple of years,” Miller said. “We’re not prepared to announce those yet, but there are a number of other things we’re looking at to enhance the ballpark.”
Interviewed for this story: Chris Angne, (716) 858-5420; Andrew Miller, (216) 420-4487