Roldo: Progressive Field Will Get a Face Lift of Some Kind

You who are paying close attention may have noticed that in my last posting here I said that a Gateway official told me that – despite a contrary mention in a New York Times article – Progressive Field was NOT getting a re-do.

Well, apparently that’s not true. Sorry about that.

Crain’s Cleveland Business this week reports that the Cleveland baseball team will soon announce an agreement to make “significant changes to the ballpark.” As I said in the original post, who knew? Apparently, not us, the owners and taxpayers.

Apparently, the ball park owner, Gateway Development Corp., which you and I heavily helped pay to build, didn’t know either. Gateway said today it has not been advised of the changes. Crain’s knows but the owners don’t. Is that the way it’s supposed to go?

Bill Reidy, retired partner of PriceWaterhouseCoopers and a former city law director, is chairman of the Gateway board. Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland have representatives on the board.

I guess the Cleveland Indians and owner Larry Dolan make the decisions without much consultation with the owners – essentially us – the taxpayers of Cuyahoga County.

Gateway top two officials – Todd Greathouse and Brian Kelly – assured me that Gateway – even if the Indians made capital improvements – would not pay for them.

I kinda find that hard to believe if major changes are in the cards. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Here’s the Crain’s story, which doesn’t say anything about the cost possibilities or who will pay for them: Read more

To a question of how much Gateway has in any capital fund, the pair assured me it has none. Further, capital improvements WOULD be paid by the team. Each year an operating and capital fund is established with the team meeting the costs.

However, if these are to be major changes unlike normal capital improvements, the public needs to be assured that the team will cover the costs. Especially when it appears that Dolan is making the decisions without even consulting with Gateway’s board.

The public should hear directly from Gateway board as an assurance that no more public money will be plowed into the stadium for the revenue enhancement of the team owners.

The team now pays both operating and capital funding. This resolution came about after a long fight over stadium and arena costs. Without this agreement a few years back Gateway was faced with the possibility of bankruptcy. The team owners, among others, would have been embarrassed by such an occurrence.

Progressive Field, first known as Jacobs Field, was built in the early 1990s primarily from revenue from the County’s sin taxes, which raised some $266 million for the stadium and arena. It opened in 1994. The County had to add revenues to the project because of cost overruns. In addition to the “sin” taxes each year the County has had to pay some $10 million on bonds let by Cuyahoga County to cover additional costs. These payments have cost taxpayers more than $100 million thus far and they continue to be paid. The stadium alone cost $176 million to build. It now has a seat capacity of 45,199.

The team is worth, according to a Forbes magazine compilation of MLB teams worth, $391 million. Dolan paid Jacobs $323 million for the team in 2000. Forbes says gross revenues of the team last year were $170 million. The team is 21st of the 30 teams in gross revenues. Gate receipts were $37 million, according to this listing.

The Gateway board meets only about four times a year. Coverage of the board meetings by the news media has been infrequent to none in recent years. Maybe it needs to be on the assignment list again.

Roldo Bartimole celebrates 50 years of news reporting this year. He published and wrote Point of View, a newsletter about Cleveland, for 32 years. He worked for the Plain Dealer and Wall Street Journal in the 1960s.

He was a 2004 Cleveland Journalism Hall of Fame recipient and won the national Joe Callaway Award for Civic Courage in 1991.

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2 Responses to “Roldo: Progressive Field Will Get a Face Lift of Some Kind”

  1. Roldo – remember the recent flap over Quicken Loans Arena removing the water fountains – then having to replace them as the Cleveland building code requires a fountain per 1,000 occupants. Who will pay for that: the Q or the City?

    That code suggests that Progressive Field should have 44 fountains. Wonder if it does. My impression is that there are perhaps 8 or 10.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Roldo Bartimole

    I was told by Gateway that the Cavs had to pay for that and that Gateway didn’t have to share costs.

    I don’t know how many they actually have.

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