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Sports


Pluto asks: What's not to like about the Progressive Field deal?
Yes, he acknowledges, fans want a consistently great team; but the upgrades at Progressive are not an either-or
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE


Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
 
A view of Progressive from right field. Many of these seats will be removed to open up a two-story concession area.
Courtesy of M.L. Schultze
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The Indians announced a major renovation at Progressive Field last week that will focus on creating more social space inside the ballpark – in part by pulling out about 6,000 seats.

It’s a privately funded deal that met with some griping from Indians fans – who say they’d rather have a consistently winning team. The griping confuses sports commentator Terry Pluto, who outlined the deal with WKSU’s M.L. Schultze

 

LISTEN: Schultze and Pluto on the Indians upgrades

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PLUTO talks about the differences between LeBron James and Johnny Manziel

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The Indians won 92 games last year and made it to the playoffs. But that barely moved the needle when it came to season-ticket sales this year. So, Terry Pluto says, the team started researching what local fans want, what’s happening across baseball and what changes must be made.

What they found, in part, is that around baseball, attendance is down for many games by 10 to 15 percent. Meanwhile, TV ratings are up – especially for the Indians.

That means more ad revenue, Pluto acknowledges.

“But they still want people in the park because, yes, you can charge more for your ads, but when Schultze goes down there and you’ve got kids, grandkids, uncles, nieces -- and the  team actually wins the game -- next thing you know somebody wants a Jason Kipnis jersey.”

“And even on dollar dog night, if you’re buying something to drink, you’re spending money there.”

It's a social world
Beyond that, Progressive Field needs to adjust to social media and the culture imbued with it.

“People like to wonder around the park ,take pictures of themselves, take pictures of others,” Pluto says. And while the Indians have improved the technical end, “they  also want to tailor it so it’s a night on the town, not just a game.”

The days of keeping score on a 50-cent score sheet with the miniature-golf pencil are over, he says. “Now a lot of fans have two games going on at once. They’re watching the Indians game, but they also have their fantasy team in mind.

So, for example, they have their eye on Corey Kluber  at Progressive Field and  Miguel Cabrera and Justin Masterson on their smart phones .

“And we can say we don’t like it because we’re old and grumpy, but this is what they do. And the Indians went and looked all this stuff and said this is what people want.”

Pluto says there’s one reason any type of Indians fan should be happy about the announcement : How it’s financed. The sin tax that voters passed in the spring will go toward shoring up the underpinnings of a ballpark that turned 20 this year.

Concession companies aren't likely to buy into a player's contract
But the public spaces – including more concession areas and open concourses – will be covered with private financing arranged with the Indians concessionaire, Delaware North. Pluto says Delaware North is likely getting a bigger share of concession sales as its part of the deal. And it’s a long-term investment.

“Don’t think about this like Nick Swisher’s contract, you know $60 million for four years -- that’s got to be paid out over four years. It’s more like the mortgage on your house, … paid out over a whole bunch of years.”

And there’s no way, says Pluto, a concession company is going to agree to that kind of deal to cover the cost of players’ contract.s

Overall, says Pluto, the complaints don’t make sense. “It’s going to make the ballpark better, it doesn’t to cost you a dime, and whatever deal they’ve worked out with the concession company, I don’t really care.”

Want cheap tickets?
Side note: Terry Pluto notes that – even while attendance has been doing down for the Indians, ticket price revenue has been going up. That’s thanks to something called dynamic pricing – in which people pay more for tickets to the bigger games on the better days. It’s a model nearly as old as baseball: scalpers. For those who want cheaper tickets, Pluto suggests a Wednesday night game in April versus Kansas City.

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