CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians are making extensive renovations to 20-year-old Progressive Field, a move that team officials say will improve the fan experience but will reduce capacity at the downtown ballpark by about 5,000 seats.
Team President Mark Shapiro said at a news conference Thursday that the planned changes are the result of extensive research that included visits to other ballparks, arenas and stadiums and surveys to find out what fans wanted most.
Team owner Paul Dolan and the Indians’ concessionaire, Delaware North Companies, will pay for the improvements.
“We need to innovate,” Shapiro said. “We need to adapt.”
The renovations are expected to be done in time for next season’s home opener, Shapiro said, but he cautioned that the completion schedule will depend on winter weather and other factors. The changes will cut the capacity from 43,000 seats to about 38,000.
Changes will include a two-story bar area that is partially enclosed and an expanded section for children. Many of the improvements will be in the right-field sections of the park. A pedestrian bridge and other structures beyond right field will be removed to allow people outside the park to get a glimpse of the field.
“It will change the view dramatically,” Shapiro said.
There also are plans to add a statue of Larry Doby, who became the second player to break the game’s colour barrier in 1947. The team recently unveiled added a statue of beloved slugger Jim Thome.
The team has the second-lowest attendance in the majors, averaging 18,659 fans per game. Shapiro conceded that the team’s performance is the No. 1 factor driving attendance. Shapiro, the team’s former general manager, said the Indians are young and are moving in the right direction.
The Indians are 57-57 this season, six games behind Detroit in the AL Central. Cleveland reached the playoffs last season and lost a one-game wild-card matchup against Tampa Bay, but drew just 1.6 million fans, ahead of only the Rays.
Cleveland enjoyed a run of 455 consecutive sellouts from June 12, 1995 to April 4, 2001.