The Indians held a press conference this morning, at which team President Mark Shapiro announced a number of changes in store for Progressive Field next season. He spoke about the stadium being 20 years old, and that while some ballparks suffer a deep decline or could be replaced after that time span, the plan is to avoid letting that happen in Cleveland. No price tag was put on the changes to come (construction bids have not come in), but Shapiro said a figure would be released within the next month and that these changes are 100% privately funded (in part by the Dolan family, and in part by Delaware North, the stadium's food services partner).
Among the changes to come:
There will be a statue of Indians legend Larry Doby, who was the first African-American player in the American League, and starred for the Tribe form 1947-1955, and again in 1958. I was on board with the Jim Thome statue all along, but have also said repeatedly that Doby was the other player who really deserved to be honored in this way. Of all the announcements made today, this is the one I find most exciting. His statue, along with Thome's and Bob Feller's, will all be moved to the same part of the stadium.
Gate C, which is beyond right-center field, will be revamped to create a more open space with a view of the field.
The bullpens will be rebuilt so that they are right next to one another, and there will be seating on all sides of them, giving fans an "enhanced connection." (This should also cut down on the number of balls thrown onto the field by Cincinnati relievers!)
The Kids Clubhouse will be expanded to two levels.
A number of luxury suites will be removed. Progressive Field currently has the second most suites in MLB, so this move makes sense.
There will be a new two-story bar down the right-field line, with decks that look out onto the field and city skyline beyond the stadium, There will be both indoor and outdoor seating at the bar.
The upper deck in right field will be rebuilt so that it can host large-group gatherings during the season (perhaps an LGT meetup???). It will also be structured in a way that allows for the section to be used as a standing-room only area for the postseason and other high-demand games.
Progressive Field currently has a seating capacity of 42,487. These renovations will lower that capacity to somewhere between 37-38,000.
Construction will begin a few days after the season ends (which Shapiro said he hopes means an early November start).
I've embedded the press conference below, so that you can watch it if you like. You might also go and check out the official Indians Twitter account, which has sent out artist renditions of many of the planned changes. As Shapiro said, nothing matters as much as the on-field performance of the team, but I think the changes sound great. Progressive Field is a solid, but not spectacular ballpark, in my opinion. I enjoy watching games there, but I wouldn't count it among the real gems of MLB. The stadium should now look better, include better views, and a more memorable fan experience next season.