By Karen Schaefer

For the second year in a row, the Cleveland Indians have transformed Progressive Field into a winter sports complex that provides fun for the whole family.

The venue features a regulation hockey rink, a skating trail through a maze of Christmas trees and lights, and, the main event: a snow tubing hill known as the Batterhorn. At its peak, the hill measures 200 feet above the field, allowing tubers to reach speeds of up to 30 m.p.h.

Scott Nemeg, his son Brennan, and daughter Lindsay made their first visit to Cleveland Indians Snow Days this year. The kids said they fell in love with snow tubing on the Batterhorn. The view from the top was scary, with people ricocheting around in blue rubber tubes and spinning down the slope backwards, but Lindsay insisted there was nothing to be nervous about.

“No. It’s the first time, you have to go down the first time,” she said. “It was fun.”

“You see all the people smiling and laughing,” said Jack Dunshaw, waiting for his daughters Keely and Sarah to make their eighth trip down the hill. “It’s cute, everyone comes off laughing. So, they’re having a good time.”

Last year, more than 50,000 people came to enjoy a day of outdoor winter recreation over the six weeks of Snow Days between Thanksgiving and mid-January. Indians communications coordinator Danielle Cherry said the idea was to create a family-friendly event that made use of the stadium during winter months.

She described the thought process as identifying not only a way to create “a unique opportunity for friends and families to come down and create memories,” but also a way to do that given Northeast Ohio’s harsh winter weather.

Cherry acknowledged the event does generate extra revenue for the ball club, but she said the Indians have tried to keep prices affordable. Ticket prices range from $5-$31, and skate rentals are included.

There is also a free lunchtime skate every Monday, which leaves enough extra cash in many families’ pockets to take the kids out to eat at nearby restaurants. Cleveland Mayoral Chief of Staff Ken Silliman said Snow Days not only brings people downtown, it brings extra income to local businesses.

“When you have a lot of baseball games in the summer, there’s a steady flow,” said Silliman. “During the winter, it’s not as steady.”

Some Tribe fans who can’t wait for spring see Snow Days as an opportunity to anticipate Opening Day. Daniel Lehman said, “It’s a good thing for the public to do when they can’t watch baseball. I personally would rather watch baseball. But this is okay, because if you can’t watch baseball, hey, let’s do this.”

Last Saturday, visitors were treated to a New Year’s Eve fireworks display. There will be an open-air hockey game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the University of Michigan Wolverines on January 15 before Snow Days shuts down for the season the next day.