Progressive Field Renovations Continue, Still on Target for Opener

It almost felt like it was baseball season Thursday at Progressive Field. The sun was shining, you could see most of the grass on the field (there was still a little snow) and construction work continued apace on the planned renovations of the 21-year-old ballpark.

The Indians announced the name of the new two-story bar in the corner of right field. Per a fan vote, the bar will be called “The Corner,” a reference to radio broadcaster Tom Hamilton’s line, “We’re under way from the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.”

The new bar will have an indoor capacity of 800 people, offer 40 beers on tap and feature a fire pit outdoors on the second level. Another 300 people can be accommodated on the drink rails in front of the bar. The Indians are offering a $13 standing room ticket, including a drink, which can be used anywhere in the ballpark but seems ideally suited for the rails in right field.

The bar will feature elements from the former Columbus Road Bridge between the Flats and Ohio City, which was replaced and recently reopened, and furniture is repurposed material from a foundry formerly on East 71st Street, thanks to the work of Rustbelt Reclamation.

Almost as soon as the season ended last year, the Indians began construction on the right field concourse and the bar and patio space in center field. Jeff Wilen, the team’s director of strategy and business analytics, said Heritage Park, which was virtually isolated from the rest of the ballpark with high walls, will now feature a wide staircase, more access and more visibility from across the ballpark.

The right field concourse will feature a nod to the different identities that can be found in the Cleveland area’s communities. That concourse will also feature local restaurants also from different neighborhoods: Barrio, which originated in Ohio City; Sweet Moses, in the city’s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood, and Melt, which has locations throughout Cleveland.

Construction also continues on the Kids Clubhouse, which will double in size. Seating in the upper deck in right field will be reduced, Wilen said, with larger displays dedicated to the team’s postseason achievements and retired numbers. Overall, Wilen said, capacity will end up being between 37,000 and 38,000.

The ballpark’s capacity was more than 44,000 when it opened in 1994 – itself almost half of what Municipal Stadium seated in its heyday. But Wilen said that the changes were a reflection of the different ways fans are watching baseball – even compared to 20 years ago.

“This is really about the fan experience,” he said. “Fans are consuming sports and consuming media differently than they were 20 years ago. It’s more than just watching the game, but that’s still available too.”

The Indians still hope to be finished by the home opener April 10. Wilen said there was enough work indoors that construction could continue through the coldest February in Cleveland history.

“There was always something that could be done,” he said.

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