Cleveland Indians remove 7,000 seats, replace them with ugly beige Legos, call this progress

The Cleveland Indians responded to years of declining attendance at Progressive Field this season by spending $26 million* to get rid of 7,000 seats, replacing them with a new sports bar, among other renovations to the now 20-year-old stadium. And if that sounds like it will make the stadium — which was much more hulking than its Cleveland Stadium predecessor, despite having 30,000 fewer seats — more intimate, you probably shouldn’t get your hopes up:

May I be the first to say “ew”?

The problem with the outfield upper deck at the Indians’ stadium, really, is with the deck below it: By making room for a wall of triple-decked luxury suites in the infield (and then not lowering the upper deck once it gets to the outfield, the Indians guaranteed that the top-level outfield seats would be a million miles from the action. That they’re now retrofitting that section with what look like beige shipping containers with retired numbers painted on them is just an indication that 1) stadiums designed with tons of corporate seating are really tough to retrofit for normal humans, and 2) the Indians management wants to leave room to reinstall seats in case the throngs who came to the games during the stadium’s initial eight-year honeymoon period somehow rematerialize.

*This is not actually $26 million in Indians money, of course, since the team just got well more than that in new county subsidies last year to pay for future renovations. Though I guess at least there’s some fitting symbolism in using the cash to set up a new bar, since local alcohol drinkers are going to be the ones paying for it.

11 comments on “Cleveland Indians remove 7,000 seats, replace them with ugly beige Legos, call this progress

  1. I’m still trying to figure out where these so called bars are actually located. Inside these containers?? I thought they were building an area where people watch the game from these bars. I hope this fad goes away quickly, this thing is a mess.

  2. That’s the trouble with these modern cantilevered upper decks. In order to take out the poles, the seating rows have to be stacked steeply. So the seats are far back from the field and with little roof coverage for it or the lower deck.

    I attended many games in the old Cleveland stadium in the upper deck and usually felt close to the action with good sight lines, and the poles were never a major annoyance. There was ample coverage to sit out rain delays, too.

  3. Tim: I’m with you on everything except the “stacked steeply” — if you take out poles, it’s harder to have the upper deck stacked right over the lower, which means it has to be set farther back.

    The bigger problem, though, is all those luxury seats, for two reasons: 1) they’re so tall that the upper deck gets pushed higher, and 2) the people who sit in them don’t want to be under an overhang for some reason (they paid good money to see the sky, apparently), which means the upper deck gets pushed back. You could easily build cantilevered decks without poles and with a close-in upper deck — the 1976-era Yankee Stadium did it — but that’s not what the people they’re marketing to are looking for.

  4. Their drawings didn’t look anywhere near as bad, for example:

    They clearly went cheap here though. In particular, ditching the glass railings in favor of the cinder block or concrete or whatever makes those patios look much more imposing.

  5. I went to this past Saturday’s game and I assure you, they are even worse in person. Completely on the mark – they look like shipping containers!
    And the bar is situated at the right field pole around the lower deck, going up. That’s actually not a bad design element. And the expanded food offerings are nice, but damn, those lego blocks are horrendous.

  6. I remember reading “the cheapest seats are the most expensive to build”. Are they even worth having anymore? Personally, having sit in the upper deck of a 1991 built ballpark was such a horrible experience I left in the 5th inning. The ear-ringing noise from the PA system, people below standing up & constantly blocking my view of home plate, so far away (even tho I was in the 1st row) & being confined to the upper deck concourse only – never again. The front row of these newer upper decks are usually farther away than the last row in the old stadium’s upper decks. Maybe obstructed poles weren’t so bad.

  7. I really doubt that the cheapest seats are the most expensive to build — they’re the least cost-effective, since they cost about the same and bring in the least in ticket prices, but that’s slightly different. Teams already are getting rid of them, though, as you can see by the number of baseball and football teams that have downsized capacity when building new stadiums. Including the Indians, though clearly not by enough.

    And I’m a big fan of support poles — yeah, you get a few hundred obstructed seats, but you bring tens of thousands of seats in the upper decks closer to the action in exchange. I’m pretty sure the Tiger Stadium Fan Club pointed out during the debates over that stadium that the Tigers could simply stop selling any seats behind the poles and still be left with more and better seats than at the new stadium they were planning; needless to say, the Tigers execs weren’t particularly interested.

  8. Jacob’s Field had aged nicely but after twenty seasons I felt it was time for the stadium to be refreshed. When the plans were initially released I thought they were on the mark in adding more open social areas where people could meet and move freely about while keeping sightlines intact. I went to Opener and the redesigned Gate C entrance, stacked bullpens, and two story right field bar were on the money. However, the upper deck is an eyesore. The blocks are overbearing and mitigate the intimate feel they were trying to achieve. There was initial discussion in removing that portion of the upper deck in its entirety and I wish that were the case. Cleveland will never bring 42K plus people to a ballgame on a consistent basis. Trying to maintain that flexibility is a pipe dream. The city on a good weekend in the summer will bring 28-30K. It would have been far more impactful to remove the section and open up the architecture showing the distinctive light poles.