Outdoors at Progressive Field

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Progressive Field opened it’s doors for the first in 1994 and Cleveland Indians fans were happy to have a new ballpark. After calling Cleveland Municipal Stadium home for many years, the Cleveland Indians franchise was happy to start fresh with a cleaner and state of the art ballpark. The sight lines would be improved, the facilities would generate more revenue and there was lots of potential for the team on the field. Fans knew the ballpark would be cleaner and have a good team to watch when the Indians first called Progressive Field home in 1994.

Fans knew there would be baseball played at the ballpark but an outdoor hockey was never even thought of at the time. In a matter of just four years, Progressive Field saw two World Series, an All-Star Game and the Indians in first place for the first in in several years. Outdoor hockey was not even a thought at the time. All the fans knew was the park was designed strictly for baseball and not much else.

Many years have passed and times have changed since Progressive Field opened in 1994. Faces have changed on the Indians roster, the economics of baseball have changed and the economy has forced many teams to find different methods of generating revenue. Some have gone to concerts, private events and weddings to bring in additional revenue. Others have brought in other types of sporting events such as college football and outdoor hockey.

In recent years, outdoor hockey has grown popular in the United States and the Indians management knew that the first couple NHL Winter Classics captured lots of attention. Outdoor hockey had been on the radar at Progressive Field for a while and the dream became a reality when the Frozen Diamond Classic was scheduled between Ohio State and Michigan for January 15th. Outdoor hockey was finally coming to Cleveland and on the same field that was originally designed only for baseball several years ago.

The Frozen Diamond Classic is still a month away, however, the rink is up and high school hockey is currently being played on it. The opportunity arose for me to take my camera with me to watch Solon take on Mayfield and I was not disappointed.

I managed to get onto the field with the help of the Indians’ management I still felt like I was in a dream. I had been on the field many years ago in 1996 for a Father-Son Indians baseball camp but I never imagined I would be on the same field again years later to watch a hockey game. The rink looked beautiful under the night lights that has seen many home runs, stolen bases, base hits, two World Series and an All-Star Game. The weather was a bit colder than what those lights see for baseball but still made the rink look beautiful in the cold weather.

At one point, I looked down and noticed I was walking across the infield when I was trying to get shots of the benches. It took me a second but I couldn’t help but realize I was walking in the same spot that former Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel called home for many years and walked by the same home plate former Indians catcher and current bench coach Sandy Alomar crouched behind. Seeing a hockey rink on top of this infield was never even imagined when the ballpark opened but it was an incredible sight to see.

When the game was over, I couldn’t help but notice the smiles on the faces of the players. They all realized that playing outdoors like this was a unique experience and does not happen often. Playing on a real rink in an outdoor setting is what any hockey play, from young kids to professionals, dream about and sometimes don’t get the opportunity to do. Progressive Field was not originally intended to have an ice rink in the middle of the infield but putting on there already has created the experience of a lifetime.

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~ by jeffrsabo on December 3, 2011.

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