Name: Progressive Field
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Opened: 2 April 1994
Architect: HOK Sport
Cost: $175 Million
Surface: Kentucky Bluegrass
Progressive Field fits in the same category as Petco Park, Nationals Park, Target Field, and Great American Ball Park, a modern-style ballpark that maintains the elements of a classic ballpark feel (as opposed to a cookie-cutter stadium), but without the "retro" trappings (red brick, green wrought iron, old-timey feel) of a Camden Yards or Coors Field.
A major plus, and something all great ballparks have in common (that is to say, I don't believe a ballpark can really be considered great if it lacks this) is that it is woven right into the city, and not stuck out in the middle of a parking lot in the suburbs. Jacobs Fie-- I mean Progressive Field -- is right in the heart of downtown Cleveland, walkable to most major hotels and right down 9th street from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In a way, Progressive Field is Cleveland's "front porch", and the signature white steel facade is just about the first thing you see when you come into town on either I-90 or I-77, which is a nice touch.
Image courtesy Google Maps StreetView
Inside, it has most of what makes great ballparks great, but it doesn't quite drive the nail home. The food has improved a lot over the years, and the concourses are wide enough to be comfortable . . . it is a vast improvement over Cleveland Stadium and other old cookie cutter stadiums, but not quite as good as some of the later, newer ballparks (which benefitted from the early 'new' ballparks like Progressive Field; remember it opened just two years after Camden Yards, and before Coors, Comerica, AT&T, PNC, etc).
But the real drive to build new ballparks and stadiums at that time was for the luxury box revenue. The pendulum has thankfully swung back the other way (for the most part), but there was a time when the most revenue could be generated by maximizing the number of luxury suites in a stadium/ballpark, and in Cleveland they decided to really push the envelope.
Not one, not two, but THREE decks of luxury suites behind home plate:
While (presumably) nice for the fat cats and corporate clients who sit there (I've never watched a game from a luxury box, and -- God willing -- never will), it had the side effect of eliminating a second deck to the ballpark, and pushed the upper deck into the stratosphere, with the top-row seats being higher than some of the surrounding skyscrapers.
The desire for indoor seating also prompted these weird glass cases of emotion in left field, which I somehow did not notice when I was there, and can't find a better picture of:
If anyone has any pictures of or inside these bizarro space pods, please comment below!
Anyway . . . all of this is to say that Progressive Field is a pretty good ballpark, and definitely worth a visit when you're next in Cleveland. (And Cleveland itself, for all the jokes, is a very nice town to visit. Put aside your preconceptions and give it a go.) Where else can you see Michael Jackson's glove, Elvis's suit, and watch baseball from inside a futuristic space pod!?
If you have thoughts on Cleveland, the Jake, or futuristic space pods, please comment below! The best comment will win a free print from Ballpark Blueprints!