What’s New This Season at Progressive Field
By Bob Toth
The Cleveland Indians were obviously busy in the offseason, upgrading the personnel on the field and in the dugout at manager. While the fans’ focus was on all of the new acquisitions on the field, the team was also busy making upgrades to their home.
On Wednesday afternoon, the team unveiled the new Collection Auto Club among a series of offseason changes around the ballpark, done with the intent to improve the overall fan experience at Progressive Field.
Indians Senior Vice President Bob DiBiasio opened the event with an introduction of The Collection Auto Club. The highlight of the offseason moves, the suite is a 5,000-square-foot room featuring 120 seats available only through season ticket purchase.
The club overlooks the first base dugout and required the removal of ten existing suites. The menu will vary from series to series, honoring foods respective to the opposing team’s home region. A sampling of the various food offerings were made available to those in attendance.
DiBiasio shared with those in attendance the Indians’ “Guiding Commitments” that the club utilized to address the various organizational concerns throughout the offseason.
The first commitment was to baseball and improving for 2013 while remaining dedicated to long-term organizational goals. More than $30 million was committed to the 2013 team and $120 million over their entire contracts. Included in the moves was the addition of Terry Francona.
The fans were a primary focus of the initiative as well. The team addressed the fans’ wants, in addition to desiring a World Series winning team, with fan-driven promotions and giveaways. A reduction in prices for concessions also addressed fan concerns.
Announced was a new 4-3-2-1 concession program. Domestic 12-ounce draft and can beers will be $4. Hot dogs now will have a $3 daily price. Soda refills on Pepsi products in the park will be $2. A grand total of 15 Sugardale dollar dog days are also on the schedule, an increase from last season’s nine.
A total of 20 giveaways are on the schedule, including the previously announced bobbleheads for Albert Belle and Omar Vizquel, an increase over last season’s eleven. Four player jersey days were announced, including Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Jason Kipnis, and Michael Brantley. Sixteen fireworks nights, 17 Rally Alleys, and 12 Key Bank Kids Fun Days also fill out the schedule.
Commitments to the ballpark focused on utilizing the Social Suites, and expanding on them, and enhancing the Terrace Club.
The Social Suite has moved to the first base side to accommodate some of the changes, as the Mike Hargrove suite was one of the suites eliminated to make room for The Collection Auto Club and has assumed the old Social Suite location. The suite, a hit among the fans, returns as the Indians continue to be in the forefront of embracing their fans in new and inventive ways. The application for the Social Suite can be found at Indians.com/SocialSuite.
In addition to the existing Social Suite, the Indians have also added a Family Social Suite.
Several other areas of the park have also seen changes. The third floor of the Terrace Club has been redone for season ticket holders and will feature new menus, new foods, and reduced prices. The fourth floor will now be strictly reserved for group outings.
Additionally, Section 151 behind home plate has seen the last six rows of the section removed to host groups. Tables and chairs under a terraced deck will hold up to 36 people.
The final of the “Guiding Commitments” was designed to continue to support Greater Cleveland youth-based initiatives.
Away from the park, the Cleveland Indians Charities is celebrating its 25th year of existence with a “Catch 25″ program. A $25 donation will fund a year of baseball or softball for local children who may not have otherwise been afforded the opportunity.
The changes at Progressive Field are just part of a multi-tiered approach by the Indians to improve the fan experience. Given all that the organization has done this offseason, the fans should be excited for what lies ahead, regardless of whether they are taking in the game on television, over the radio, or in person at Progressive Field. For those willing and able to make it to the ballpark, the experience will be even more rewarding than in years’ past.
Photo: Bob Toth