Progressive Field renovations unveiled at opener
CLEVELAND -- Field of Dreams, the classic 1989 baseball film starring Kevin Costner, coined the phrase, "If you build it, they will come." Throughout the long, harsh winter, the Indians built.
Renovations to the right- and center-field areas of Progressive Field were the talk of the offseason, up until they were completed shortly before Opening Day. All that's left now is the second part of that legendary quote: for the fans to pile in. And if the Indians' home opener was any indication, the renovations are a hit.
Shortly after the gates opened on Friday afternoon, "The Corner" -- the new two-story bar in right field -- was packed to capacity. Fans flocked to the new bullpen area in center field.
The hype generated throughout the offseason by various media outlets predicting the Indians to be this season's Cinderella darlings, combined with excitement of the renovations, created a tangible buzz around the ballpark prior to the game's first pitch.
"There's a whole new feeling going on out here, with everything going on," Indians catcher Yan Gomes said. "It's just exciting."
How the renovations will impact the fan experience at Progressive Field is clear. The Corner provides fans with an energetic place to watch the game. The new bullpen area in center field brings fans closer to the players.
But the renovations will also impact the on-field experience, with the impact to be determined.
"When you take out a piece of the stadium and move objects around, the wind is going to change," outfielder Michael Brantley said. "So it's very important that we get out there and take fly balls off the bat and get comfortable in your home park again."
In some ways, the stadium renovations seem almost like a culmination of a rebranding that the Indians' franchise has undergone since hiring manager Terry Francona in 2013. Following four consecutive losing seasons, the team put together winning campaigns in each of Francona's first two seasons, including a playoff appearance.
The fans have taken notice, and so have the players.
"I think you're starting, finally, hopefully, to see the fans see what kind of club we have here," second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "That being said, it takes some time to earn the fans' trust or respect. But we now have two winning seasons straight, a playoff appearance, they're starting to realize that, 'Hey, these guys are competitive.' We've got a new park, we've got things to be excited about. Fans are rather excited, and hopefully it will show in the attendance and coming out to the ballpark to show support."