Photo by Erik Drost

Prime Time for Tribe Time

Downtown Cleveland has been on the rise for some time now. Billions of dollars in development funds have been poured in, rejuvenating the various districts, bringing the nightlife bustle of The Flats up into the heart of the city.

Naturally, a wonderful centerpiece for a day spent in Cleveland (you know—when the temperature is in the double digits and you can see the sun) is catching an Indians game at Progressive Field. You can typically get in the door for under $20, and with all the changes coming to the ballpark itself, that’s beginning to look like a pretty good bargain.

The home slate this year opens on Friday, April 10, for a 4:05 p.m. game against the division rival Detroit Tigers. We’ll assume that you have taken the day off work to commemorate the event. It’s what smart managers do to win ball games.

A few years ago, this story would have begun by getting to the Gateway District super early to claim a parking spot close to the stadium. I’m partial to the lot and garage space on Prospect between East Fourth Street and the Winking Lizard: it’s ten bucks, and if you get there in time, you can snag one of the outdoor spots and avoid the slow, post-game trickle getting out of the stacks.

These days, it’s just as good to park for free in a nearby neighborhood and Uber to the game. Even from Tremont, you’re likely going to spend less than $15 round trip, and this way you’re not limited to walking distance from the ballpark.

Start your day with a late breakfast at Lucky’s Cafe (777 Starkweather). Shouldn’t be too long of a wait on a weekday. Grab a cup of coffee and nuzzle up to some cheddar-scallion biscuits with scrambled eggs and sausage gravy, and thank us for the suggestion later. Or, if you truly are lucky, they’ll be slinging some of their “kitchen sink” chicken wings: five massive flappers and drums breaded thick and crispy and seasoned sweet and savory. Home run.

Roll yourself north by hook or by crook and find your way to the aforementioned East Fourth Street area. If you’re somehow still hungry, you’ve got plenty of excellent options here. Jonathan Sawyer’s Greenhouse Tavern (2038 E Fourth) opens at 11 a.m. on Fridays for lunch, and hell, you could get some of its wings too and hold your own mini wing wars. Who’s stopping you?

Up on the corner of Euclid and East Fourth, you’ll find The Corner Alley. As in, bowling alley. Yup—right there on the north corner of the popular strip is a 16-lane bowling alley with flat screens aplenty so you can watch highlights from the previous night’s games while you toss a few frames and work through that food coma. Get there after 2 p.m. for happy hour and you won’t even pay for shoes. Use that extra money for some $2 PBR tallboys instead.

As game time approaches, you can start making your way south to the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. If it’s nice out, stop at Panini’s (840 Huron) and have another pounder on the patio. It’s still far cheaper than it will be at the ballpark, and most of this crowd will likely follow you right into the game.

Finally, there’s Progressive Field itself. Yes, the beers are still pretty pricey, but new renovations this year should help distract you from that. The right field concourse has been blown wide open, with Gate C now providing stunning views of the city’s skyline.

The bullpens will be right at the foot of the new entrance, with fans seated all around them to better connect fans to players, a move that I’m sure the players are just thrilled about. A word to the wise: be nice, huh?

Off in right field, a new two-story bar is being constructed, and from the sound of it, no expense is being spared. Climate-controlled outdoor seating, enormous video screens—all what they’re calling “a new social gathering space sought by millennials.”

Baseball purists are leery of the changes, claiming that it’s going to make Progressive Field feel like an amusement park and attract too many non-baseball fans. But to be fair, baseball purists are often leery. Of any change. Like a change of underwear, for example.

When the game is over, if you have it in you, head back to East Fourth and hit up Society Lounge, or better yet, get back to Tremont and cap the night at The Spotted Owl (710 Jefferson) for a signature shot-and-beer pairing. A good way to end the day, I’d say.

Cheers. And of course, Go Tribe.