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Indians unveil latest Progressive renovations

CLEVELAND -- The Indians spent last offseason giving Progressive Field a facelift, dramatically changing the center-field entrance and creating the popular Right Field District. The response to the ballpark upgrades from fans has been overwhelmingly positive this season.

Even more enhancements are coming, too.

On Wednesday, the Indians revealed details of the second phase of their multi-phase renovations for the ballpark. Cleveland plans on extending the changes made in center and right field throughout the main concourse, and will be working this winter to add new concessions, constructing a new club located behind home plate and adding more elements to celebrate the team's history.

"The fans have been exceptionally positive in their feedback," said Andrew Miller, the Indians' senior vice president of strategy and business analytics. "The first phase was primarily focused on the Right Field District. This phase will be taking a lot of the themes that are popular in right field and including them around the rest of the concourse."

The Indians will be working with Gateway Economic Development Corp., along with city leaders and other stakeholders, on the final stages of approval for the new privately funded projects.

In the revamped Right Field District, the Indians now feature local restaurants such as Melt Bar and Grilled, Sweet Moses, Dynomite Burgers and Great Lakes Brewing Co. Miller noted that the concessions for 2016 will still include ballpark favorites, but the Indians will be looking to also build on the popularity of the local specialties, bringing more unique options throughout the concourse.

In the section behind home plate, the Indians will be building a new club, which will feature a full bar, access to the new concessions options, a customer service center and a glass front for viewing the game. The club will be available for season-ticket holders in the Diamond Box and Field Box Front sections, and will remain open after games to provide a way to let traffic clear before leaving.

The new home-plate club will surely take some cues from The Corner bar that opened this season and has been one of the most popular elements of the changes to the ballpark this year.

The club will also help provide a better view of the field from the concourse.

"First and foremost, we're looking to open up the concourse," Miller said. "We're going to open up the concourse as much as we can behind home plate and behind third base and create the club directly behind home plate. The concept is to provide an exclusive area to those fans, as well as create more openness for fans walking in the concourse."

Enhancing the sightlines of Progressive Field has been a goal of the Indians for several years. The Right Field District and enhanced family deck included elements to help in that regard, and the two-story Kids Clubhouse and Corner bar were also constructed in a way to help provide better views for fans roaming the ballpark.

"As we did our research over the last few years," Miller said, "one of the main themes was connection. Connection both between the city and the ballpark, and the areas between the ballpark and the field. If you go to modern ballparks that have opened in recent years, many of them have 360-degree views of the field from anywhere in the concourse.

"The way that Progressive Field -- Jacobs Field at the time -- was initially built, that wasn't the case. So, to the extent that it's possible, we're going to try to create as much openness as possible, so fans, wherever they are in the ballpark, can still feel that connection to what's going on on the field."

The Indians took a major step in that direction last winter, when the first phase of the renovations completely altered the look of the center-field Gate C entrance. The team removed an old concessions area, along with a pedestrian bridge to a parking structure, and opened up the view of the city from inside the ballpark. That sweeping alteration also made the team's Heritage Park more inviting and easily accessible.

Outside Gate C, the Indians now have three statues honoring Indians greats Bob Feller, Larry Doby and Jim Thome. Miller said that more statues could be coming in the future, and the Indians want to continue to add historical aspects throughout Progressive Field. Earlier this season, the team also unveiled a unique exhibit in the Terrace Club showcasing Feller's incredible career.

"That's been another very important part to us," Miller said of the added historical elements. "Throughout the Right Field District renovations, we tried to open up Heritage Park, create space for our heritage out on the plaza. We just unveiled the Doby statue. We're looking to do the same thing across Phase 2 of the renovations. We'll find different ways to incorporate our team history."

Miller added that there could also be additional changes coming as part of the newest phase in renovations. One thing the Indians plan on doing -- and have started to do throughout the first phase -- is upgrading the sound system throughout the ballpark. He noted that The Corner bar and Right Field District already had new systems installed last offseason.

A limited number of suites will also see upgrades this coming winter.

"There may be some other things that are still to come, too," Miller said.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.
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