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11/22/11 4:55 PM EST

Snow Days kicks off Friday at Progressive Field

Hockey games biggest addition to second winter experience

CLEVELAND -- When it came to creating Snow Days, an event that transforms Progressive Field into a winter playground, the goal for the Indians from the start was to find a way to bring people together in downtown Cleveland during baseball's dormant period.

This offseason, Snow Days is back -- with plenty of improvements -- for a second consecutive year. Last winter's event was a kind of experiment. This time around, the Indians believe they have added elements that will make the unique experience even more appealing.

"The basic premise is still the same," Indians president Mark Shapiro said on Tuesday, during a Snow Days media event at the stadium. "It's an opportunity to get people into this ballpark, to keep it active, to bring people to downtown Cleveland and keep an association with the Indians and family entertainment."

Snopening Day is Friday, when the event begins a rotation of being open to the public each weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) through Jan. 16. From Dec. 16-Jan. 2, Snow Days will be open seven days a week.

Shapiro noted that the event is a way to potentially generate "incremental revenue," which is important for an organization like the Indians. Last year, Snow Days drew more than 50,000 customers, but the Tribe ultimately suffered a financial loss. That was something that was expected in the program's first year.

The expectation now is that the newest version of Snow Days will see a significant increase in attendees and a positive monetary gain in the end. A big reason for Cleveland's confidence in such developments is the addition of a regular-size hockey rink that will host a handful of games from the youth to collegiate ranks.

The St. Edward vs. St. Ignatius high school hockey teams -- a pair of schools that generate plenty of interest around Cleveland -- will square off on Jan. 5 as part of the Frozen Diamond Faceoff promotion. Then, Ohio State University's team will play host to Big Ten rival Michigan on Jan. 15.

The game between the Buckeyes and Wolverines will mark the first collegiate hockey game in Progressive Field history and the first outdoor college hockey game for Ohio.

Kurt Schloss, the Indians' senior director of merchandising, and one of the key people behind organizing Snow Days, said the addition of the hockey games -- there will also be a youth hockey tournament -- has led to an increase in Snow Days sponsors.

"There's sort of a groundswell of, 'This event is meaningful. We want to be a part of it,'" Schloss said. "The office is excited about it. Hopefully, that translates to a lot of people from Northeast Ohio being excited about it as well."

Hockey is the newest addition -- Schloss also noted that ice time can be purchased when games are not being held -- but those who made it to Snow Days last winter will recognize many of the same elements from a year ago.

The Batterhorn -- a 10-lane tubing hill -- remains the focal point of the event. This year, it begins atop the Home Run Porch behind the left-field wall and runs more than 200 feet down to near where second base would be located. One difference this winter is that there is unlimited tubing -- rather than timeslots.

That change, along with creating more warming areas, came from feedback gathered from last winter's attendees.

Running around The Batterhorn and along the hockey rink is The Frozen Mile, an ice-skating path that loops around the ballpark. There is also a Rookie Rink for beginning skaters and an indoor play area for children. Besides more warming areas, there are also concessions available, along with other interactive games and activities.

Shapiro said he is hoping to make Snow Days an annual event.

"We want to see what kind of traction it has from Year One to Year Two," he said. "If it's something that becomes tradition, which we hope, we're not going to get rid of it."

"This event, when we had these discussions more than a year ago," Schloss said, "it was about drawing people to downtown Cleveland to participate in an event that has never been done, to visit the city of Cleveland when they would not normally come down here in the dead of winter."

Tickets to Snow Days and for the Frozen Diamond Faceoff are now available and can be purchased online, at the Progressive Field box office, in Indians Team Shops or by calling 216-420-HITS.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.