Construction and new renovations ongoing at Progressive Field
Tribe hopes to bring a more social experience to fans in 2015
CLEVELAND—Not even a month into the offseason, Terry Francona already has his bullpen warming.
On Tuesday, two excavators sat side-by-side on a mound of dirt in the area once called the Indians bullpen. Come next year, the section will house relievers from both the home and visiting teams, marking one of the several new changes fans will see at Progressive Field in 2015.
Just four weeks into the multi-million dollar project, Jim Folk, vice president of ballpark operations briefly spoke about some of the renovations.
“A lot of significant progress is being made on our enhancements,” he said. “I really struggle to pull one thing out and say it’s a cornerstone.”
For starters, both bullpens will now sit stacked and parallel of each other in center field. Fans will be able to get up close to the area, where only three rows of seats will lie between the field wall and the Tribe ‘pen.
Besides the new bullpen structure, significant changes have already been made to both the Feller Plaza (Gate C) and mezzanine level.
“I’m very excited the way the new Feller Plaza is going to look,” Folk said. “You’re going be able to walk down the sidewalk, look in the park and see a lot of views you’ve never had before. When we’re done, it’s going to be very similar to what you get at the home run porch at Gate A.”
The infamous Bob Feller statue will still reside outside the ballpark, but it remains unclear as to where the new Jim Thome and future Larry Doby structures will be located.
To open up the main concourse, many seats have already been pulled out of the mezzanine sections, with each renovation serving to further connect fans and give them a more social experience.
“We’re going to be able to connect the fans closer to the game and connect the ballpark closer to the city when all of this comes together,” Folk said.
Nothing will show that off more than the new two-story bar and upper deck platform level in right field. Gutting all the seats in upper reserve area, the new section will feature three terrace platforms for special parties and house standing room for bigger games.
“This was entirely driven by focus groups, by conversations with season ticket holders, by surveys and by interviews,” Folk said. “One of the things we found was the demand and desire for a social gathering spot, things like party decks and more interaction type areas.”
The cost of the project while steep is currently privately funded between the Dolan family and Delaware North.
“We have to remain relevant,” Folk said. “The way people watch baseball today is a lot different than it was 20 years ago when we opened this great ballpark. There’s a much more of a social gathering element than there was. Now it’s much more of a social gathering event.”
For research, Folk and his team traveled to a number of newer ballparks, including Washington, Minneapolis and Kansas City.
“It’s a very dramatic face lift to the ballpark,” he said. “Very significant to some of us who were at the start seeing things that went 20 years ago. We are looking at a multi-phase master plan that will probably take four or five years. We believe there is more to come.”
The current project and renovations are set to be completed in time by Opening Day on April 10.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at email@example.com.
P.S.: One very underrated benefit to the renovations will be opening the stadium up to views from East 9th Street, one of the city's busiest streets. I've been to Comerica and you can see all the way down into the field from multiple points outside the park. It's a really neat effect.
Kluber, Carrasco, Bauer, Santana, Gomes, Brantley are all quality players which the Indians acquired. Whether they developed them or not as a draft pick is irrelevant. They are still Indians players who were finished products by the upper levels of this organization.
Not to mention, Kipnis and Salazar who were signed by the Indians as amateurs. They're okay players too.