CLEVELAND — As the state, county and city continue their talks with the Cleveland Indians on a lease extension at Progressive Field beyond 2023, the issue of how much public money will be involved and from where is a complicated one—but one all parties are familiar with these days.
Over the last decade all three of Cleveland’s major sports venues, including Progressive Field, have undergone major renovations. Progressive Field's last overhaul came in phases heading into the 2015 and 2016 seasons in an effort to bring the stadium, which opened in 1994, into the modern era as more than 7,000 seats were removed leading to the creation of fan friendly gathering spaces, open views of the field and bullpens in full view of the fans.
More dramatic than the physical change though was the fact that the team at the time asked for no public money to do it.
"We just felt this was our job,” said Indians Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Bob DiBiasio at the time in 2014. “It was our job to do the things necessary to make this a more compelling experience and in that sense it's our responsibility to pay for it."
The fact that they'd now be asking for public help for future renovations as part of a lease extension is not without precedent. The Cleveland Cavaliers most recently used public money of all different sorts to put together their massive $185 million transformation of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. A deal that was on - off - then back on over the use of public funds.
The Cleveland Browns were the first to go down this path in 2013 when they announced an massive $120 million overhaul roughly 40% of what it cost to build the place, impressing fans at the time who also immediately asked “who is going to pay for it?”
Like today with the Indians negotiations being in their early stages, the Browns weren't saying at the time either how much they were seeking.
"I don't think it would be respecting the mayor and city council and that process to answer that right at this second,” said then Browns President Joe Banner in 2013.
The city would eventually strike a deal where they would pay $2 million a year for 15 years towards the $120 million price tag.
While the Indians work towards a lease extension and stadium renovations, the organization continues discussions with public officials at the city, county and state level.