One can find Progressive Field in the heart of downtown Cleveland, Ohio. The field has been in operation since 1994 and was known as Jacobs Field from then until 2007 before taking on its current name in the 2008 season. The stadium can seat 35,041 at capacity and is part of a larger almost campus-style sports complex in that section of downtown Cleveland.
Cleveland American League Ballclub (1994-present, American League)
July 8th, 2021
Kansas City Royals 4 vs Cleveland American League Ballclub 7
I’ll kick this off by being upfront that Progressive Field is one of my favorite baseball stadiums. I went to college in Ohio and one of my best friends is a born and bred die-hard Cleveland baseball fan. We went to a number of games together and I have a lot of great, and some very cold, memories of baseball games at “The Jake” and later Progressive Field. I also acknowledge that the team has a racist moniker and former logo, and I’m very excited for them to move forward as the Cleveland Guardians, but that doesn’t stop them from being my favorite AL ball club, nor does it factor into my review of their field.
Progressive Field is in the heart of downtown Cleveland and it really feels like part of the city. Parking downtown was easy to find and there are a lot of great pre or post-game options for food and beverages in the little pedestrian district that has grown in the area near the ballpark and the adjacent FieldHouse. I also know from past experiences that the stadium is an easy walk from Tower City, where you are connected by public transit to most of the Cleveland metro.
The stadium itself has a very classic look while having more open space and room to walk. The light towers in the outfield are fairly iconic. There are a lot of different options for food vendors. I didn’t eat anything at this particular game because we had gone out to dinner with a friend of mine beforehand, but in my past experience, the food has been pretty good. I did note that they had incorporated more local vendors and regional items.
The seats we had in the terrace level were quite good, if a bit crowded. It had been raining a lot earlier in the day, so our ticketed seats were a bit flooded (much like most of Cleveland), so the usher told us we could sit where we liked and we’d sort it out if we needed to. A new-ish feature to the stadium is raised bullpens, so you can watch the relieving pitchers warming up. Sightlines onto the field were also great, so I don’t feel like we missed any of the action. The only minor complaint about seating is that the stairs in the upper levels to get to seats are fairly steep and there is a bit of a sense that you could fall if not careful.
The game itself was exciting. Cleveland had been on a pretty significant losing streak before that game, so the crowd was a bit subdued at first, but got very excited as the offense finally got going in the 8th inning, and the three-run walkoff to end the game was a pretty big exclamation point on a fun night out overall.
We will start off with the hard truth, no matter how gorgeous Progressive Field is it also contains plenty of ugliness within. It’s hard to view a game there when surrounded by such overtly racist imagery. It’s ingrained into the experience in such a way that it certainly affected the time I had at the game. I understand that may be different for most people, but it ended up being a big factor in how I viewed the stadium. Thankfully, starting next year the Cleveland Guardians will be playing games at the field and I will welcome that change.
With the above out of the way, yes, everything you have heard about Progressive Field is true. From the moment you walk through the gates, it is a jaw-droppingly gorgeous stadium. From the way, the outer walkways have been designed to the fact that there isn’t a single bad seat in the house it really is a near-perfectly constructed baseball stadium. That’s not something I expected to be saying this early into our baseball stadium journey, but here we are.
The aforementioned outer walkways are large and spacious. For someone like me who isn’t the biggest fan of large crowds and feeling packed in by a lot of people, this made the Progressive Field experience very enjoyable. Getting to any of the food vendors, merchandise areas, or facilities is very easy. There are also plenty of the above so I never found myself spending too long in any line. There are good sightlines from some outer areas of the stadium, but when there isn’t the game can be seen on video displays or listened to via the radio broadcast being played on overhead speakers.
When I say there isn’t a bad seat in the house, I really do mean that. Our seats were on a higher terrace, but it offered great sightlines. There was nothing obscuring any of the action and no matter where we moved throughout the stadium I couldn’t find an angle that would result in a less than optimal viewing experience. For the pure act of sitting back and enjoying a baseball game, it’s hard to think of any field topping Progressive Field.
The food was decent, which isn’t really a knock on it mind you. Stadium food is stadium food and while it can sometimes wow me, for the most part, I’m just looking for something I can enjoy and that I don’t feel like it’s a chore to eat. The food I did get at Progressive was good, I ate it, and I would gladly have it again so all in all another positive experience.
The only non-racist negative aspect of the visit was the seats. The sightlines were great, but the seats themselves are very 1994 and make you feel like you are right on top of the person sitting next to you. It’s certainly not a positive but go to enough baseball games and you get used to cramped seats to the point where it’s not a major detriment to your enjoyment of the game. Alas, I wish the seats were the only negative, but there is all that aforementioned racism and that did create a lesser stadium than the all-time great that Progressive Field should be.
Lead photo courtesy of Emilie Thompson