July 24, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Jake is no more

CLEVELAND — How about “The Pro?” or “The Prog?”

Whatever you call it, “The Jake” is now just a memory.

Sure, the building on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario streets remains, but the name beloved by fans since the stadium opened in 1994 “Jacob’s Field” is no more.

In just 80 days, the  Indians will be playing in Progressive Field after the organization signed a 16-year deal for naming rights to the stadium with Progressive Insurance.

The deal is worth an average of $3.6 million annually and will bring in close to $57.6 million over the life of the contract for the Indians. The team spends more than that — $61.2 million — on player’s salaries each year.

Progressive has been a Cleveland institution since it was founded in 1937 and is currently headquartered in Mayfield Village. That hometown feel appealed to Indians president Paul Dolan, who is the son of Indians owner, Larry Dolan.

“It feels great to have two successful Cleveland institutions coming together for the good of the city,” Dolan said at a media conference Friday at the stadium.

When the ballpark opened in 1994, then Indians owner Richard E. Jacobs purchased the naming rights for $10 million for a 13-year term, which expired at the end of the 2006 season.
Had the Dolans decided to keep the name, or name it after themselves, they would have lost out on the millions of dollars corporate sponsorship can bring.

Dolan said the annual payments would be put in the club’s general fund and used to help maintain the field itself and placed into player development.

“It’s an important revenue stream for a sports franchise,” said Indians spokesman Bob DiBiasio. “Obviously, 16 years at $3.6 million annually will provide a significant stream of revenue.”

In September, the Indians partnered with sports, entertainment and media firm IMG to speed up the process of finding a naming rights partner, attempting to reach agreements with National City Bank and Key Bank, among others, but without success, according to the Major League Baseball Web site.

Once Progressive came into the picture, the name Progressive Park was mentioned as a possibility, but that moniker was already being used by an outdoor picnic facility in Iowa. Hence, Progressive Field was born.

This will be the first time that a Cleveland baseball team will be playing in a corporate-sponsored stadium, despite how lucrative such deals can be.

Corporate sponsorships began in 1973, when the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills accepted $60,000 a year from poultry processor Louis Rich. Since then, stadium names have fallen like dominoes, and some have changed multiple times within a few years.

In 2005, Cleveland Cavalier’s home Gund Arena morphed into Quicken Loans Arena, or “The Q,” after the Cavs were purchased by Quicken Loans Inc. chairman and founder Dan Gilbert. Gilbert bought the naming rights to Gund Arena when he purchased it and the Cavaliers for $375 million from former owner Gordon Gund.

Mike Mullaley contributed to this story.