CLEVELAND (WJW) – Gateway Economic Development, which owns Progressive Field, and representatives with the Guardians team are asking the city to help pay for improvements to the ballpark to the tune of $8 million a year.
Cuyahoga County approved legislation last week to pitch in $9 million to keep the Guardians in town for the next 15 years. Their existing lease for Progressive Field set to expire in 2023.
“There are cities where this has been done well, I would argue Cleveland is one of them, and what you have in front of you today respects and reflects the potential growth of maintaining that because it’s not static,” said Gateway executive director Thomas J. Yablonsky.
Gateways Chairman Ken Silliman also spoke before the city council’s development, planning and sustainability committee, telling council members it’s in the city’s best interest to approve the funding and start the construction process as soon as possible.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the city’s piece of legislation passed unanimously by members of the development, planning and sustainability committee.
The next step will be for the finance committee to review and vote.
Cleveland’s longest serving councilman Mike Polensek said while he supports the city’s sporting venues, he has concerns about much needed improvements in surrounding communities, often overlooked.
“The issue that I’m wresting with is another investment, a continued investment into a sporting complex, and yet what do I see? I see a loss of the equivalency of two council wards in the last ten years, population wise. Number one in poverty,” Polensek said.
About 1.7 million people come to Progressive Field every year, with 81 games each season driving foot traffic to the downtown area.
Guardians team representatives detailed their ongoing relationships in the community, supporting the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, the Boys & Girls Club of Northeast Ohio and all youth baseball and softball teams.
Councilman Basheer Jones also raising concerns about local minority-contractor inclusion in improvement projects at Progressive Field moving forward.
“This is going to be a very important project and it’s a lot of support coming from the city, as it should be, but you have the opportunity to really make a stronger impact,” said Jones.
Neil Weiss from the Guardians said, “The goal would be to set it up before we begin working on RFP’s for construction managers so that, that group is part of the process.”
The Guardians have already committed to an additional $4.5 million a year for upgrades, as part of the $200 million project.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine indicated that he would support state-funding for $2 million a year.