CLEVELAND -- The Indians enjoyed a renaissance on the field last season, returning to the World Series for the first time in nearly two decades. As a city, Cleveland has also been experiencing a turnaround with a downtown revitalization that mirrors what has taken place at Progressive Field.
The Indians and their home city will be under the spotlight come 2019, when Cleveland will host the All-Star Game presented by MasterCard for the sixth time in franchise history. Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that decision on Friday in a news conference at Progressive Field, where Indians owner Paul Dolan, manager Terry Francona and Sandy Alomar Jr., who was the MVP of the last All-Star Game in Cleveland, were with him on stage.
"We were here in October for the World Series," Manfred said. "And I know one thing for sure: Cleveland's a baseball town and it will be a great host for the Midsummer Classic. The All-Star Game is the premier event of the summer. We think of it as a five-day celebration of the greatest game in the world."
This year's All-Star Game will be played in Miami on July 11, and next year's game will be in Washington at the home of the Nationals. The 2019 All-Star Game will mark the first in Cleveland since 1997, and it will break a streak of four straight Midsummer Classics in National League cities. Minnesota was the most recent American League city to host the game in '14 at Target Field.
This development comes on the heels of one of the most memorable seasons in franchise history. Under Francona, who won the AL Manager of the Year Award for the second time with Cleveland, the Indians captured a division crown and ran to their first AL pennant since 1997. The Indians and Cubs then engaged in an historic World Series, which Chicago won in seven games.
"It was a great, great World Series," Manfred said.
During the Tribe's incredible postseason, a renovated Progressive Field was put on display for a national audience. It allowed Major League Baseball and the Indians to see the response to the facility and the sweeping changes that have occurred over the past several years not only in the ballpark, but in the city.
"I think 'confirm' is the right word for it," Dolan said. "We were well on our way to having the All-Star Game at that point, but I suspect it made Major League Baseball feel really good about the direction we're headed in Cleveland when they saw how the Cleveland community supported us during the postseason."
During the multiphase renovations over the past few winters, the team tore down obstructions in center field to create a more spacious entrance, allowing for a better view in and out of the stadium. The club also installed a two-story Kids Clubhouse, a two-level bar with rooftop seating and a club behind home plate and party areas in the upper deck. The video board is now the largest in the Majors, and the overhauled concessions feature a long list of offerings from popular local restaurants.
"It has to be significant in selecting All-Star Games," Manfred said of the amenities at the stadium. "No. 2, you want a ballpark that showcases the game, and I think that, both when originally constructed and in the way it has been maintained an improved, Progressive Field fills that bill."
Dolan noted that securing the bid for the 2019 All-Star Game was roughly a five-year process and noted that economic impact of hosting the event could be in the range of $60 million to $65 million. Throughout the process, Dolan and Manfred have also held multiple conversations on a variety of issues, including the team's Chief Wahoo logo. While Dolan said there was nothing new to report on the logo, Manfred indicated that it will remain a topic of discussion.
"I'm not going to speculate about what I want the end of the process to be," Manfred said. "I think that Paul has been fantastic about engaging in conversations, including a conversation this morning with Paul and [minority owner] John Sherman. I want those conversations to continue and I think we'll produce a result that will be good for the Indians and good for baseball. What exactly that is, I don't want to speculate right now."
The recent success of the Tribe -- Cleveland has won more games (352) than any AL team during Francona's four years at the helm -- comes amidst a strong run for the city's sports landscape as a whole. Last year, not only did the Indians reach the World Series, but the Cavaliers won the NBA title to bring home Cleveland's first major sports title in 52 years. After that victory, the Cavs held a parade downtown that drew an estimated crowd of around 1 million.
"It's such a celebration of baseball," said Francona. "And for the city of Cleveland to be a part of that and to show off a little bit what we're all about, I think is going to be fabulous."
In 1997, when the Indians most recently hosted the Midsummer Classic, Tribe catcher Alomar won the All-Star Game MVP Award for his two-run homer in the seventh that helped propel the AL to a 3-1 win. Alomar now serves as the first-base coach on Francona's staff.
"As a player, that was a fantastic event to be a part of the All-Star Game in your own backyard," said Alomar. "Just being part of the game was good enough, but to have a chance to perform in the game and win the game and win MVP was a surreal moment."
While the Indians' next All-Star Game is still a few seasons away, the team currently has a solid foundation of emerging stars on its roster. Among them, Gold Glove Award-winning shortstop Francisco Lindor made his first All-Star team last year in his first full season in the Majors. Righty Danny Salazar was also a first-time All-Star in 2016, alongside ace Corey Kluber, who took home the win for the AL last summer in San Diego.
The Indians also hosted the All-Star Game in 1935, '54, '63 and '81. Including the 2019 game, the six Midsummer Classics for the Indians will mark the most for any one team. New York (nine) and Chicago (seven) have hosted more All-Star Games as cities, but those include multiple teams holding the event.
"We can see ourselves somewhat as the All-Star City," Dolan said.