Gateway asking city council for millions to improve Progressive Field, keep Indians in Cleveland

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CLEVELAND (WJW) – Paying for improvements at Progressive Field led to a sometimes contentious hearing at Cleveland city council on Monday.

Gateway Economic Development Corporation is asking for millions of dollars to improve the ballpark and keep the Cleveland Indians, soon to be Guardians, for the next 15 years.

The existing lease for Progressive Field is due to expire in 2023.

A representative from Gateway, which owns the ballpark, asked city council for millions of dollars to maintain and improve it.

Some council members say, although they support the team, writing out a check might not be that easy.

“It’s expensive, there’s no other way to describe it. It would involve $19 million a year of public funding for each of the next 15 years,” said Ken Silliman, chairman of the Gateway Economic Development Corporation.

He went before city council’s finance committee, asking for the city of Cleveland to pitch part of the $19 million of annual maintenance costs and improvements for Progressive Field.

“Now that’s divided among Cuyahoga County, which would shoulder nine million a year, the city of Cleveland, again, subject to council approval for eight million a year… Governor DeWine indicated that he would support state funding for two million a year,” he said.

Silliman asked council members to help finance a new lease for the home of the Indians to keep the ball club in Cleveland at least through 2036.

He says it’s in the city’s interest to approve the funding and start the construction process as soon as possible.

“It keeps our existing facility relevant, in good condition and it avoids what cities such as Atlanta and Arlington, Texas have recently faced, which is that billion dollar price tag for a brand new ballpark,” said Silliman.

Silliman says the Guardians have committed to an additional $4.5 million a year to upgrade Progressive Field to fund $200 million in upgrades.

“I want to know, by us supporting this… if this council is to support this, what are the real benefits going to be? Not the boogeyman stuff,” said Ward 8 city councilman Mike Polensek.

Cleveland’s longest-serving councilman Mike Polensek says he supports the city’s sports venues, but has pointed questions for the team. He says many of his constituents can’t even afford to fix up their own homes, but are being asked to improve a downtown stadium.

“I grew up in Cleveland, I’ve never lived any place else, but at the end of the day, our citizens, our kids here got to benefit, our neighborhoods have got to benefit, and don’t tell me you gave me some baseball field out in the neighborhood where you’ve got massive poverty all around it… That ain’t going to cut it for me,” said Polensek.

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