Guardians Unveil Progressive Field Renovation Projects, Timelines

Joe Scalzo, Crain's

The last time Cleveland's baseball team completed major renovations at Progressive Field in 2016, it came within a whisker of its first championship since 1948.

The Guardians are scheduled to finish their next round in 2025, so …

"So we're guaranteed to go to the World Series?" joked Chris Antonetti, Cleveland's president of baseball operations. "Now we just need to change the outcome of that last game. I like it."

As a group of reporters laughed, Antonetti added, "That's a guarantee, right?"

If nothing else, Cleveland's $202.5 million renovation project should at least get the Guardians closer to that goal. The team unveiled their latest projects and timelines on Thursday, Jan. 12, with two projects set to be completed by Opening Day 2024: the "Upper Deck Experience" and a new building on East Ninth Street.

Four others are set for Opening Day 2025: the Terrace Hub (replacing the Terrace Club); the Dugout Club; clubhouses and service level renovations; and the administrative offices. Most of 2023 will focus on design development, with Manica serving as the lead design architect on the finalized project while Ohio-based Moody Nolan serves as the architect of record.

The $202.5 million in renovations are part of the larger $435 million package passed by the city and the county at the end of 2021, with the other $232.5 million going to capital improvements (concrete work, seating, new boilers, etc.). The Guardians are responsible for any additional funds needed for the stadium renovations.

"Navigating what needs to happen for players to perform at the level they need to perform to win Major League Baseball games while also reimagining the ballpark is quite a task," Guardians president of business operations Brian Barren said. "Whenever we can, we try to ground them (the renovations) in fan insight versus whatever some leader's 'pet rock' might be in terms of, 'I want to do X, Y, Z.'

"We want to do what fans want."

The Guardians will start outside work when the 2023 season ends and will continue as weather allows, then move indoors, Barren said.

"A lot of the deconstruction needs to take place immediately in the days and weeks after the last out," Barren said. "As you reconstruct, getting things done that you can get done at those times becomes important, particularly as it pertains to weather.

"We'll do the best we can to maximize that window of time, so we can minimize the impact on anything that happens in-season, regular-season games 

The Guardians have patterned some of the renovations around similar projects in Seattle and Colorado. Progressive Field's overall capacity will remain relatively flat (it's currently 35,041) although some areas will gain seats and others will lose some, the team said.

Here's a quick look at the Guardians' plays for each project:

Revamped upper deck

The new-look upper deck will feature a beer garden down the left field line, a new group outing space in right field (say goodbye to those dreaded shipping containers) and new concession spaces, including two new "View Box" bars that will flank home plate and allow for more open sightlines from the upper deck concourse.

When asked how long it'll take to get rid of the shipping containers, Barren laughed and said, "You want one? In the past, we would occasionally have the opportunity to have fans buy the seats. If you want to buy one of those shipping containers, we can probably arrange to get one extracted."

Terrace Hub

The current enclosed Terrace Club — which was cool in 1994 and has since aged as well as Kevin Spacey's career — will become an open-air hub with terraced-ticketed seating on the 200 and 300 levels, and a Cleveland beer hall food and beverage experience on the 400 level that will be open to all fans. The ticketed seating sections will have their own private club space on the 300 level.

Dugout Club

The Dugout Club will keep the current field-level seats while adding a new exclusive lounge behind home plate. The club will also feature seven private lounges for groups.

Clubhouses and service level

Both clubhouses, as well as the ballpark service level, will be updated for the first time since then-Jacobs Field opened in 1994. The new home clubhouse will be completely redone with a focus on player amenities in performance, training and recovery.

"Those of you in the clubhouse every day have seen — or smelled — why we probably need some of those renovations," Antonetti said. "I'm hopeful when the players and staff walk into the new facility, they will feel excited and energized about the additional resources they have to help with their success, both as individuals and as a team."

East Ninth Street building

To allow for the clubhouse expansion, the team will build a new four-level East Ninth Street building in right field. It will include a new kitchen and commissary for the Guardians concessionaire, as well as additional storage facilities for the ballpark. The rooftop will connect to the upper concourse and serve as a new group space.

Front office

The team's administrative offices will also be fully renovated for the first time since 1994. The Guardians will add a fifth floor to the current four-level structure.

Thursday's announcement did not include any details about a proposed brick-and-mortar sportsbook, which would be a separate project, the team said. Although fans can place sports bets on their mobile phones inside Progressive Field — the Guardians even have a mobile sports betting partner in bet365 — MLB rules prohibit having a retail sportsbook inside the stadium. The Guardians could build a "sports betting" lounge, but it can't have a kiosk or a betting window.

The Guardians have been approved for a sportsbook license with the state, but they'll need to build it just outside the gates.

"Anything we do will be on the edges of our ballpark," Neil Weiss, the Guardians' executive vice president for ballpark operations, said. "Something small."

Another thing that won't be coming anytime soon? A roof.

"That would be ideal," Antonetti said. "But that's outside the scope of the budget."