"We've had a mixture of emotions," Indians president Mark Shapiro said on Wednesday. "One, you're amazed at the pace at which the demolition is occurring. You can kind of start to envision the plans we've been looking at for a long period of time. That's coupled with a sense of urgency, because we know the winter weather is coming and we'd better be moving that fast."
When Indians fans pour through the Progressive Field gates -- including a completely reimagined Gate C in center field -- for Opening Day next season, the project is expected to be completed. That has given workers a daunting challenge in light of the upredictable nature of Cleveland's winter months, so no time was wasted. On Sept. 29, one day after the Indians' season ended, the demolition began.
This week, crews began demolishing the Batter's Eye Bar and Market Pavilion in center field, and began the removal of the Bud Patio in the right-field corner. Seats from the upper and lower deck have been removed to allow for more social spaces and improved concession and concourse amenities.
Roughly 200 seats are for sale at the Indians Team Shop at the ballpark for $600 a pair.
Both the home and visitors' bullpens (surrounded by fan seating) will now be located in center, where Gate C will be a more wide-open space to allow for a more dramatic view of downtown from inside the ballpark. In the right-field corner, the Bud Patio will be replaced by a two-story, climate-controlled bar. The Indians will also be upgrading the Kids Clubhouse down the right-field line to a two-story area with a long list of new features.
The Feller statue will eventually be returned to the revitalized Gate C entrance, and the Indians plan on unveiling a Larry Doby statue to go along with the Jim Thome statue that was installed this past season.
Shapiro was in Goodyear, Ariz., for organization meetings for the past few days, but he received photos on the latest developments with the renovation project.
"It's at a point now where every day, there's some pretty marked progress," Shapiro said. "I think Gate C is going to be incredibly visible. It will be a new gateway to the city and really a good connection to all the energy that's occurring on East Ninth and downtown. That's one thing I'm looking forward to seeing.
"I'm excited to see the new bar and how the younger Cleveland growing [demographic] interacts with that. I can't wait to see the two-story Kids Clubhouse, because I think it's going to one of the most unique ones of its kind in all of professional sports. It's hard to single one thing out."
Shapiro said the Indians did extensive surveys and held focus groups with fans to get external input on the kinds of amenities should be added. The team also studied a number of ballparks, arenas and entertainment venues to help get a sense of trends and ideas that other groups have brought to fruition.
In the end, Shapiro said the biggest goal for the Indians is to have something to offer for each fan and family that walk through the Progressive Field gates.
"It's important to provide very targeted experiences for each demo," Shapiro said, "that it not be a one-size-fits-all experience. It needs to be very tailored and customized. And it also needs to be compelling. The fact is that the majority of our fans are coming from suburbs that are a good distance away.
"They're walking away from a home entertainment experience that, from our ratings, you can see they're very engaged in. So we've got to provide a compelling reason to come down to the ballpark."