CLEVELAND — Here’s a fact that will blow the minds of many who remember so well how it felt to first walk into the ballpark at Carnegie and Ontario and, after all those years in dank and dreary Municipal Stadium, finally bask in the brilliance of a modern Major League facility:

Progressive Field is now the 10th-oldest ballpark in MLB.

At 30 years old, Progressive has peers that have already been replaced. Two other parks the same age or younger — the Ballpark in Arlington (later known as Globe Life Park), which opened in 1994, and Atlanta’s Turner Field, which opened in 1997 — were both abandoned by their ball clubs, a telling tale of how rapidly the fall from grace can come for a sports facility.

Replacing Progressive Field, however, is unthinkable. Beyond the obvious financial ramifications of such an idea, this ballpark means too much to too much. In the mid-1990s, it was at the forefront of a renaissance for both a town and a team, and it has accommodated so many crazy comebacks and indelible images that it is inextricably linked to this club’s identity.

Yet because times and tastes do evolve quite a bit in 30 years of professional sports fandom — and because this particular ballpark packed a lot of life into those 30 years, with a 455-game sellout streak from 1995 to 2001 — significant updates were in order. The challenge that faced those who embarked upon the project entitled “Progressive Field Reimagined” was to better the building without stealing its soul.

As the first iteration of enhancements is unveiled in 2024 and the next looms in 2025, it’s clear this challenge was taken seriously.

“This asset,” says Jim Folk, the club’s longtime vice president of ballpark operations and current vice president of ballpark improvements, “belongs to the public. That’s why we’re here, to take care of them.”

Thirty years ago, the public fell in love with this ballpark.

Now it’s time to fall in love with it all over again.

A series of renovations to Progressive Field in 2014-15 was the club’s first foray into the idea that today’s sports fans prefer shared spaces over individual seats and private suites.

The area near the right-field gate was dramatically reconfigured to contain open space and views of the surrounding neighborhood. A two-story bar known as “The Corner” instantly became packed with imbibing adults, while the two-story Kids Clubhouse became a draw for energetic little ones. The concessions were upgraded with Cleveland-based eateries, a new club area opened behind home plate, seating was removed in the upper deck. The beloved ballpark took on a brighter, more intimate, more communal existence.

Those were popular changes … save, of course, for the rarely used, so-called “shipping containers” that took up residence in the right-field upper deck for group gatherings.

But those renovations still left a lot of the facility untouched. The upper-deck experience was not upgraded. The Terrace Club — once seen as a posh place to be — had become a ghost town, a waste of space. The player facilities in the bowels of the building — the hitting cages, workout room, clubhouse, etc. — were no longer on par with major college programs, let alone big league expectations. Rather than enjoying a formal setting within the ballpark, group outings convened under a tent on the driveway on the building’s south side. And the offices had become cramped with the influx of employees necessitated by the ever-evolving baseball industry.

“We started to think about how we make it the best experience for our fans, for our players and coaches and for our internal teammates,” said Neil Weiss, the Guardians’ chief information officer and executive vice president of civic relations. “We looked at how to balance all those things.”

When a lease-extension agreement with the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County was finalized in early 2022, it was time to firm up a design element shaped by surveying of employees and fans.

“One of the things we demanded was it to look like it belonged,” Folk says. “We need to respect Joe Spear’s original design theory. It can’t look like someone just started bolting pieces onto it. It can’t look like the Herkimer Battle Jitney [from the movie “Mystery Men”]. It had to look like a modern version of the original idea.”

The Kansas City-based Manica Architecture firm was a dark horse in the process but asserted itself in an interview by promising to make the Guardians “uncomfortable” (in a good way) with its ideas.

“They didn’t seem like rinsing and repeating old stuff,” Weiss says. “They wanted to learn from us.”

For both the design and construction of the renovation, it was important for the Guardians to pair national firms with local ones and to include diverse perspectives. And so while Manica served as lead design architect on the project, Ohio-based Moody Nolan (the largest African-American architecture firm in the US) was chosen as architect of record, Cleveland-based Van Auken Akins (the largest female-owned architecture firm in Ohio) was chosen as interior support architect and Cleveland-based Robert P. Madison Inc. was chosen as construction support architect.

On the construction side, Minneapolis-based Mortenson, which built the Braves’ Truist Park and completed renovations at Coors Field in Colorado and Target Field in Minnesota, was chosen as construction manager at risk, with local firms Independence Construction and the AKA Team assisting with construction management services.

As the first half of the renovation project nears completion, the Guardians are thrilled with how things were coming along.

“People are going to see our renovations this year and next year and still feel like they’re at Progressive Field but better and different,” Weiss says. “They’re not going to go in and say, ‘This feels like a totally different place.’ They’re going to say, ‘This feels like the same place but cooler.’”

So… What’s new? And what’s coming? Here’s what this reimagination entails:

Other than the reduction of seating with the installation of those shipping containers, the ballpark’s upper deck has never been renovated. That all changes with the 2024 introduction of two new “districts,” in right and left field.

Terrace District (left field): This open-air space allows for improved sight lines of the city. The Terrace Garden (opening 2024) is a rooftop patio with space for fans to congregate near and easy-to-access bar and food and beverage stands. The Terrace Hall (opening 2025) will be a social beer hall with a distinctly Cleveland vibe and a wide selection of craft brews.

Pennant District (right field): Bye bye shipping containers and hello open-air, group outing area, capable of hosting one large group (up to 1,200 people) or being divided into three smaller spaces for more intimate events. This area features panoramic views of the ballpark and downtown, a buffet with non-alcoholic beverages included and high-top tables and seating.

Once the project is complete, there will be two dramatically improved special access areas.

North Coast Social Lodges & Club (opening 2025): This will replace the Terrace Club. The glass will give way to semi-private open-air logs overlooking left field and is ideal for small groups. These fans will have access to a climate-controlled indoor lounge with all-inclusive food, beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages.

“There will be a level of energy [from the loges],” Weiss says. “With the glass, you can’t hear or see anybody. There should be good excitement and buzz generating from there now.”

Carnegie Club & Lounges (opening 2025): The Dugout Suites area will be dramatically improved with this new members-only area behind home plate that will feature a premium bar, an elevated menu and convenient grab-and-go beverages that allow fans to enjoy a meal in an upscale indoor environment or easily get back to their seats to watch the game. The six private lounges allow small groups of up to 12 guests to enjoy an exclusive experience.

Whereas the 2014-15 renovations were entirely oriented around the fan experience, this time the players are in on the action.

“Our baseball operations team has done a lot with a little for a very long time,” Weiss says. “I would challenge you to find a power five school that has worse facilities for a baseball team than ours. I visited 40 different high-end Division I facilities that were all better than ours. We have to provide a better work environment for our players and staff.”

And so, in advance of the 2025 season, the home and visiting clubhouses will be fully renovated. This will include expanded strength-and-conditioning and athletic training areas, improved kitchen facilities and more robust technological support for players.

The expansion of the home side will lead to the visiting clubhouse being pushed farther down the right-field line. (The Guardians considered moving the home dugout to the first-base side of the field in one iteration of the project but ultimately decided to keep it where it’s been throughout the ballpark’s history.)

Construction on a new kitchen and commissary building on East 9th Street actually began before the 2023 season had even ended. This structure, which opened in 2024, allows for the service-level clubhouse expansion and improves workflow for the Guardians’ concessionaires while also providing storage facilities for the ballpark. The rooftop of the building connects to the upper concourse to serve the Pennant District area.

The Guardians’ front-office building is also being fully renovated for the first time in its existence, with a fifth floor added to the original four-level structure. This renovation, to be completed next year, reflects the overall expansion of the workforce.

“When we moved in, we were probably at 60 percent capacity,” Folk says of the front office. “Now, we’ve got people sharing offices. We were literally on top of each other. So we’re adding about 10,000 square feet and changing the way the whole thing functions.”

Last but not least, the hunter green seats that we’ve been plopping down in the last 30 years are getting replaced by new seats with a navy blue hue. The new seats are being installed in stages.

When the entire renovation is complete in 2025, Progressive Field will have a new style but the same soul.

Folk will never forget what it felt like when this ballpark opened in 1994.

“The awe that you saw in people when they came in,” he says, “was unlike anything Cleveland had seen before.”

Soon we’ll see it again.