Indians extend lease, ending relocation speculation

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FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2013 file photo, fans in the upper deck wave towels as the Cleveland Indians and the Tampa Bay Rays are introduced for the AL wild-card baseball game at Progressive Field in Cleveland. The Cleveland Indians have agreed to a 15-year lease extension at Progressive Field, keeping them at their downtown ballpark through 2036 and ending speculation the franchise would relocate. The agreement, which was announced Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, and still needs legislative approval, includes two additional five-year options that could make it a 25-year deal through 2046. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File)

CLEVELAND – Soon to be known as Guardians, the Indians aren't leaving home anytime soon.

Ending rampant speculation they would be relocating, the Indians agreed Thursday to a 15-year lease extension at Progressive Field, keeping them at their downtown ballpark through 2036 and perhaps longer.

The agreement, which still needs legislative approval, includes two additional five-year options that could make it a 25-year deal through 2046.

Also, the Indians are partnering with the city, Cuyahoga County and state to spend $435 million for renovations on the ballpark, which opened as Jacobs Field in 1994 but is now one of Major League Baseball's oldest facilities.

The deal was unveiled during a virtual news conference at the ballpark with owner Paul Dolan, Gov. Mike DeWine and local leaders. The plan does not include new taxes or increases and would be funded by current revenue sources.

The club has been in talks with the city and county, which owns the 35,000-seat stadium, on extending the lease for several months. The current lease is scheduled to expire following the 2023 season.

DeWine recently got involved in the negotiations to ensure the Indians weren't going anywhere. After the NFL's Browns moved to Baltimore in the 1990s and the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer were legally stopped from relocating, DeWine felt urgency to get involved.

DeWine said Dolan never discussed moving, but it's possible things could have changed without the new lease.

“We know the reality of the business and the reality is that Cleveland is a small market,” DeWine said during the news conference. "Our goal is to make sure that a world-class city like Cleveland continues to have professional sports, professional baseball. It’s very, very important.

“So I felt the longer this lease was, frankly, for the fans the better it would be.”

Under the agreement, the franchise will pay $10.2 million over the length of the lease on stadium repairs and upgrades. The city and county will pitch in $8 million per year and the state will provide $2 million in aid annually.

Dolan said $200 million will go toward ballpark improvements, which he said includes a repurposing of the Terrace Club restaurant as well as a “reimaging” of the stadium's upper concourse.

Dolan said the improvements could take place in the next five years, “if not sooner.”

“Our organization is proud to continue our long-term commitment to Cleveland by ensuring we keep our ballpark competitive," Dolan said. “We want to give our fans, our community, and our players the best ballpark experience possible.”

The extension comes on the heels of the Indians changing their name to Guardians at the end of this season.

Dolan had previously stated his commitment to Cleveland. However, the potential of the lease ending, along with a shriveled team payroll, led to conjecture the club might look to move.

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