The Building of the Progressive Field

The Building of the Progressive Field

The progressive park, popularly known as the home ground for Cleveland Indians, is a baseball park in the downtown of Ohio State.  The park is one of the best in terms of comfort and attendance and was actually voted as the best park by fans in 2008. Inaugurated in 1994, the park was initially named James Park in honor of the team owner. However, most recently, the park’s name was changed to the current name after Progressive Insurance Company purchased its naming rights. The progressive Field is one of the two gateway projects that were commissioned to revitalize Cleveland back in the 1990s. The other project is the Gund Arena which is the home field for Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team.

The Gateway project was a major achievement in that it was the first successful construction of two fields at the same location (Grabowski, 1992). In the project, the progressive Field, then known as Jacobs Field, was the first to be completed and is heralded as the first baseball-only facility in the US. The Progressive Field was built as part of the Gateway project which envisioned better sports in downtown Cleveland. It was multi-phased strategy to develop a large sports complex in Cleveland and which Sasaki would provide the desired designs (Sasaki Associates, 1991). It was a sophisticated strategy aimed at revitalizing of the economy through consensus building. The master plan had an important objective of incorporating the entertainment and sports aspects into the downtown areas. This idea would serve as a catalyst for economic growth by opening space fabric in the downtown city. Therefore, before plans for a baseball stadium and a basketball arena were floated, there existed a dream of a domed stadium on the same site.

In the early 1980s, the Cleveland Browns and the Cleveland Indians had complained and grumbled about the state of the aging Cleveland Stadium, which had housed them for many years. The fact that the stadium was 50 years old did not help matters and this kept fans away from cheering their teams. The project was kick started in 1984 when county voters in Cleveland defeated a proposed increase in property tax to fund the construction of a new dome shaped stadium (McKee, 2014). The Mayor had proposed a 0.9-mill increase in the property tax and would affect home owners. The mayor had rejected the idea of private funding just like many communities had done at the time.

The governor promised to gather business and community leaders to come up with a better plan after the proposal had been voted out by voters. Business and civic leaders then met to formulate alternative ideas for the construction of a new sports facility. It is in the backdrop of this development that executives from Cleveland launched a development fund to kick start the project. The idea was to convince the Cavalier owners to abandon their field and become a tenant in a new arena that was to be built. There were many months of negotiations after which the mayors were confident of the backing of both the Cavaliers and the Indians.

In the following year, property was acquired for the groundbreaking to start later. Moreover, sports team designed objectives and therefore leading to the demolition at the site in the year 1987.  Three years later, a sin tax over 15 years was passed to help in financing the project. This sin tax was levied against such products as alcohol and cigarettes and attracted a charge of 4.5 cents on cigarette packs and 1.9 cents on beer cans (McKee, 2014). The tax was projected to raise 170 million dollars to fund part of the cost of a twin baseball stadium and arena. It is interesting that the sin tax was proposed for debate by Jeff Jacobs, son to the future owner of Cleveland Indians. In the same year, the mayor in consultation with the county commissioner created a non-profit organization to help steer the project. This development formally marked the project as a public-private partnership in which private entities partnered with the public funds to achieve the project.

The total cost of the project amounted to 175 million dollars and was jointly funded by Richard Jacobs (the owner of Cleveland Indians) and the government. Jacob financed 52% of the project accounting for 91 million dollars while the remaining 84 million dollars was sourced from the sin tax fund. The financing from the sin tax fund thus accounted for 48% of the total project cost. By the end of 1993, the park was complete and fully operation including the installation of seating. The ballpark was then opened in 1994 under the name Jacobs Field which remained until 2008. Such was the hype with the new field that it set out a record for the largest attendance in 1997 when more than 45200 people attended the third game of the 1997 Division Series.

The design of the Progressive Field was done by a company called HOK Sport and which is now known as Populous. The field is designed as a retro-modern ballpark and was structured in a way to give ample view of the skyline in downtown Cleveland. The exposed steel design coupled with the vertical light towers was meant to blend in with the city of Cleveland. The designer did have a hard time trying to incorporate features that fans most desired with those of other ballparks. The desire to include and reflect the unique spirit, culture and architectural landscape of Cleveland also compounded the matter.

The idea of public financing was highly favored by the leaders during the time of construction of the Progressive Field. In fact, the mayor of Cleveland did not entertain the thoughts of sourcing for finances from private funding when he first proposed the property tax. It is believed that he was only ready to acquire private funding from naming rights alone and not anything else other than that. The public on the other hand were not for full public funding of sports stadiums and arenas because they believed the stadiums should be owned by the teams (Rich, 2000). In actual fact, the decision to pass the project was passed in by a minority vote probably because the public was not for the idea. In the preceding years, most of the stadiums and arenas were built using public funds including the Cleveland stadium. Others, such as the one used by Cavaliers were owned by the team owners.

The Progressive Field is different from others of the time because it brought in the aspect of public-private partnerships in the construction of stadiums and arenas. The new concept meant that financing of stadium construction was not delayed by lack of funds either due to the drying of public coffers or the limitation from team owners. The use of federal and state taxes in building the stadiums also has an impact on the number of fans that attend the games (Delaney & Eckstein, 2003). This increase in attendance is partly drawn from the fact that fans feel a greater attachment to the stadiums than they would if it was privately owned. The public financing of sports complexes is therefore a significant factor in advancement of sports.



Delaney, K. J., & Eckstein, R. (2003). Public dollars, private stadiums: The battle over building sports stadiums. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press.

Grabowski, J. J. (1992). Sports in Cleveland: An illustrated history. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

McKee, V. (2014). Jacobs Field: History & tradition at the Jake.

Rich, W. C. (2000). The economics and politics of sports facilities. Westport, Conn. [u.a.: Quorum Books.

Sasaki Associates. (1991). The Gateway Project, Cleveland, Ohio: A new baseball park and arena in Clevelland, Ohio. Urban Design Summary. Place of publication not identified: Sasaki Associates.

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