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Street Level

Five things you don't know about ... Progressive Field


Indians Win Game One of the World Series 2016

Progressive Field has been the Cleveland Indians' gleaming gem of a home field since April 4, 1994, when the Tribe knocked off Seattle 4-3 in front of 41,459 fans. Long-time supporters may always refer to the stadium by its old nickname, "The Jake," but even those die-hards may not know all the facts about one of the most recognizable parks in the major leagues.
 
1. Progressive Field, previously named Jacobs Field, opened in 1994 as part of the Gateway Sports and Entertainment Complex intended to revitalize downtown Cleveland. Plans for the facility formed a decade before, sparked in part by Cuyahoga County residents voting down a property tax increase for a new domed stadium.
 
A private civic organization called Cleveland Tomorrow created a development fund to help launch the facility project, which broke ground in early 1992. That June, past and present Tribesmen Mel Harder, Charles Nagy and Sandy Alomar executed the ceremonial first pitch on the stadium grounds. President Bill Clinton tossed the first pitch on Opening Day 1994.
 
2. The total cost of Jacobs Field's construction was $175 million, with $84 million coming out of taxpayers' pockets and the remaining $91 million deriving from the coffers of Indians' owner Richard E. Jacobs.
 
The park was built with a Kentucky blue grass playing surface, a 19-foot fence in left field and eight-foot fences in center and right, seating capacity of 43,368, and 40 restrooms. In a strike-shortened 1994 season, the team averaged 39,121 fans per contest. One year later, on June 12, 1995, the Tribe sold out the first of 455 straight home regular season games, a streak that would not end until April 4, 2001.  
 
3. Jacobs Field was renamed Progressive Field in 2008 after the franchise inked a 16-year naming rights agreement with Cleveland-based Progressive Insurance. Since then, the facility has undergone a number of renovations, among them the installment of a giant scoreboard that ranks as the biggest in MLB.
 
At 221-feet wide and 59-feet tall, Progressive Field's scoreboard eclipses the scoreboard at Seattle's Safeco Field, which measures at a meager 201.5 feet wide and 56.7 feet tall. The massive installation in Cleveland has 147 percent more LED space than the previous iteration, and includes seven ribbon displays that combine for 2,184 feet of additional LED space that wrap around the field.
 
4. The stadium's first official regular season game began at 1:21 p.m. on a typically chilly early spring day. The first pitch was a called strike from the arm of "El Presidente" himself, Dennis Martinez, against Seattle second baseman Rich Amaral. Alomar tallied the home club's first hit in its new confines, an eighth-inning single to right field, while Cleveland reliever Eric Plunk picked up the win in 11 innings.
 
5. In its relatively short life span, Progressive Field has witnessed its share of huge games and thrilling plays, a feat considering the franchise's most famous "player" between World War II and the Clinton administration was Charlie Sheen.
 
Three World Series and an All-Star game aside, the stadium's most memorable moment may have been Oct. 5, 2007, the night a playoff game was interrupted by a noisome swarm of insects.
 
Famously known as the "bug game," the American League Division Series contest between Cleveland and the New York Yankees was marked by an attack of Lake Erie midges. The bugs, drawn by either by the warm fall weather or a rightful disdain of those damn Yankees, landed upon the field in massive numbers. The insects "bugged" fans and players alike, taking a particularly liking to beefy Yankees' reliever (and future Indian) Joba Chamberlain, who was bothered into throwing a wild pitch that led to the Tribe tying the score in the bottom of the eighth inning.
 
Happily, the Indians' little helpers did in the dastardly pinstripers that night. Cleveland would suffer a soul-crushing ALCS defeat to Boston a few weeks later, but we're not going to talk about that. 

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.   
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