Indians get 15-year lease agreement, ending relocation talk

USA Today
0 Comments

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 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.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.