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Cleveland’s Progressive Field

by Matt Smith

Another day, another post on a depressing trend in baseball that leaves traditionalists reminiscing about purer times. But while Congress may be concentrating on performance enhancing drugs, my focus is on the dreaded world of corporate branding.

The Cleveland Indians are the latest team to make baseball fans grit their teeth every time they talk about a game taking place at their ballpark. Farewell Jacobs Field, hello Progressive Field.

Hmm, maybe it will grow on me?

Cleveland fans are generally unhappy with the change and it’s not hard to see why. Jacobs Field had a certain ring to it and, like all good names, it could be shortened to something even better: the Jake. Progressive Field is not the worst name they could have ended up with, but I don’t share Indians President Paul Dolan’s opinion that it is “a great name”. How can it be when it means that your stadium, your cathedral-like venue where crowds gather with hopes of their baseball fan dreams coming true, is named after a car insurance firm?

At least it’s not Sheila’s Wheels!

From Dolan’s perspective, he can claim it’s a great name because whenever he has any doubts, he can think of the $3.6 million his franchise will pocket annually for the next sixteen years (approximately $57.6 million, or £30 million, in total).

Whether fans of the Tribe will take to the name is another matter. Re-naming a current stadium always makes it that much harder for the new name to stick. No doubt many will still be speaking about the Jake for several years to come. This is partly due to familiarity and partly due to stubbornness.

Such problems don’t exist when a new ballpark rises from the ground; there is no sentimentality to cling on to. Mets Fans will have little choice but to call their new home Citi Field when they move in for the 2009 season. And it certainly makes even more sense for a team to agree such a deal when they are in the position of financing a new stadium. Citi Group Inc will reportedly pay the Mets $20m annually for twenty years to put their name above the stadium door (and on every other spare piece of wall no doubt). Quite simply, the Mets would be mad to turn that sort of investment down.

Their cross-town rivals don’t seem to mind so much. As things stand right now, the Yankees will still be playing in a ‘Yankees Stadium’ in 2009, although few would be surprised if that situation changes.

No, it’s just something we have to accept. There’s too much money at stake for most teams to defiantly tie themselves to tradition. All a baseball fan can hope for is that the Front Office uses the money to strengthen the team rather than the owner’s coffers.

So long as C.C. Sabathia is pitching for them over the next six or seven years, Indians fans won’t care what their ballpark is called.

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