Future of Progressive Field murky as Cleveland Indians lease up in 2023

Cleveland Indians (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Cleveland Indians (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Indians lease at Progressive Field is up at 2023, and with today’s economic uncertainty, the future of the ballpark is murky.

The Cleveland Indians lease to play baseball at Progressive Field in 2023. That’s not exactly news to rabid industry followers, but to those who don’t closely follow the game of stadium real estate (hand raised), you may be slightly nervous.

Before COVID-19, the Indians were exploring major upgrades at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario with the dream of a “re-imagined ballpark.” With fellow Gateway neighbor, the Cleveland Cavaliers, giving Rocket Mortgage Field House an extensive face list, the Indians wanted to be next.

The Dolan ownership, which has reportedly invested millions of their own to upgrade the park to this point, reportedly wants to ask for millions of tax dollars to improve the stadium.

Again, this was BEFORE the coronavirus–and things were already dire. Gateway, which receives $13-$14 million per year from Cuyahoga County’s sin tax (a tax on beer and cigarettes), divides that money between the Browns, Cavs and Indians, while also maintaining their physical property.

The Tribe reportedly gets $2 million per year to maintain infrastrucrual needs, such as the roof, heating, cooling, etc.

But now, that money is running out,  according to WKYC-TV’s Mark Naymik, and the more public money is being sought.

Enter coronavirus. Unemployment is at levels unseen since the Great Depression. Ponying up millions upon millions of dollars for a luxury may not be on the front burner.

Just a few days ago, Peter Gammons wrote a story for The Athletic, in which he briefly touched upon baseball’s fragile economic state, and commented on the Tribe.

"“…As Cleveland, the 52nd-largest city in the nation, tries to regain its equilibrium, the Indians are fighting to survive. Their stadium lease is up in three years.”"

As a relief to the Tribe faithful, Gammons pointed out there are currently no viable markets to move to, as Nashville as its own financial troubles, while Austin might not be taken seriously as a baseball town.

The Hall of Fame writer closed out his paragraph on the future of baseball by writing the following about the teams who struggle to put butts in the seats.

"“So when the game is back on solid ground again, whenever that happens, what it looks like presently is unimaginable and clubs in Cleveland, Oakland, Tampa Bay and Miami could require radical solutions.”"

I’ve got to admit. I was slightly worried reading all of this. I’ve seen the Cleveland Browns move, so really, no team is safe. Fortunately, besides there being no viable markets to go to, the Dolans are a Cleveland-based family who run the team as a family business.

It be shocking to see them sell, or move, but then again, who knows. Art Modell watched the Cavs and Indians get their new stadiums and his ego was so bruised, he did the unthinkable. With the Dolans watching the Cavs get mega upgrades, who knows how deep the scars will run?

The February report detailed how officials are looking for more public money. It seems unlikely now, but one possible way would be to generate more revenue from the property and the area surrounding it by boosting development.

Using the Rams as an example in LA, the organization has basically built it’s own neighborhood surrounding the stadium; Living, dining, movies, shopping, you can do it all, and LA’s ownership benefits.

Next. Signing Jason Peters seems even less likely now for Browns. dark

The Browns were looking at development on the lakefront, and revenue producing development outside of the actual gate was part of the plan for the Crew’s new stadium in Columbus.