CLEVELAND -- The two young brothers stood there in the bitter Cleveland cold, waiting for the clock to strike noon and the first of the Indians Snow Days to begin. Mere minutes after it did, Henry and Will Singer, a couple of Chicago kids in town for the Thanksgiving holiday with their family, were among the first to go barreling down the Batterhorn -- the series of snow tubing lanes that extend from the left-field bleachers into the outfield at Progressive Field. Their ensuing review was shared by the hundreds of others, young and old, who were on hand for the first hour of what the Indians cheekily dubbed "Snopening Day."
"It was awesome," 11-year-old Henry said. "It was pretty fun and pretty fast. It was definitely once-in-a-lifetime." Well, maybe not. After all, within a half an hour of Indians Snow Days opening for business, Henry had already gone down the Batterhorn three times. Such repeat visits were encouraged for the adventurous. But even for the folks who preferred to be interested observers rather than active participants, Indians Snow Days seemed to be a hit. "It looks fabulous," said Henry and Will's grandfather, Norm, a native and resident Clevelander. "I think the city's really going to embrace this. It's a lot of fun and the price is reasonable." General admission tickets to Indians Snow Days are $5 and provide access to the Snow Zone, a kids play area in shallow left field, and the Winter Haven area, a walking trail with a 3,000-square-foot maze. A $10 ticket includes unlimited skating on the Frozen Mile, a quarter-mile track that runs along the outfield, or the Rookie Rink, a skating area for beginners. A $20 ticket includes a two-hour Batterhorn session, and a combination ticket that includes all of the above is available for $25. Family and group rates are also available. Tickets can be purchased at the ballpark or online at indians.com. While "Snopening Day" didn't have quite as much pomp and circumstance attached to it as Opening Day, the Indians did have Friday night fireworks scheduled for those on hand. Also, the familiar sound of fan John Adams' drum rang out from the bleachers. This time, however, Adams wasn't encouraging a Tribe rally but bracing those at the top of the Batterhorn for the wild ride ahead. Indians manager Manny Acta will, as promised, be taking that ride Saturday morning. On the last day of the 2010 season, when discussing his offseason plans, Acta said he intended to go snow tubing at Indians Snow Days, and he was scheduled to live up to that vow. When the gates opened Friday, the first four invited down the Batterhorn were actors Scott Schwartz ("Flick"), Zack Ward ("Scut Farkas") Ian Petrella ("Randy Parker") and Yano Anaya ("Grover Dill") from "A Christmas Story" -- a movie partially shot and much-beloved in these parts. Whether it was beloved enough to forgive Schwartz for wearing a Yankees jacket to the festivities is debatable. Of course, fans of all kinds and all teams are welcome to partake in Indians Snow Days, which is why Shanon Rohlik, a native of Minneapolis who has lived in Cleveland for four years, was in attendance with his family. Rohlik donned a Twins hat but was nonetheless rooting for the Indians to have success with this unique endeavor. "This is a big thing for Cleveland," Rohlik said. "One of my complaints with the city is it doesn't have a lot to offer in the winter months. You never see your neighbors. Minneapolis really embraces the cold, with its outdoor parks and events. This is an opportunity for Cleveland to put itself on the map." While other Major League teams have opened the doors to their facilities in the winter months for hockey games, the Indians are the first to put a concept of this kind into action. They hope, in time, it will become a tradition for families and a revenue-generator for the team. Friday was the first day for families to come out and make some lasting memories, and it was only the beginning. The Indians Snow Days winter wonderland will be open daily, including holidays, from now through at least Jan. 2. Select dates are blacked out for private events. A full schedule is available at indians.com/snowdays. While the weather was cold, it cooperated with the Tribe. Heavy rains in the area on Thursday would not have been good for business or the machine-generated snow on the field, had they continued into Friday. Obviously, the real snow will no doubt hit the city soon, and that should give Indians Snow Days a more authentic and festive feel. Still, those on hand for the opener did a fine job of breaking the place in, from the trips down the Batterhorn to the snowball fights in left field. Even in what is normally reserved as a dead time of year for this facility, Progressive Field proved to be a fine place to play.