Browns ‘internal discussions’ on digs rejig



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Cleveland Browns stadium renovation update Image: Populous

The National Football League (NFL) team Cleveland Browns are holding “internal discussions” as regards renovations at their home venue – the FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio (US) – but the organization could not provide information on how much those improvements would cost, or whether the Northeast Ohio taxpayers would be asked to help pay for the improvements.

‘NEWS 5 CLEVELAND’ stated that the Browns sent out a statement which read, “A Browns spokesperson confirmed that the team has had internal discussions about renovations of the FirstEnergy Stadium and how it would fit into a broader vision for the lakefront. The team has made progress on a feasibility study launched last year but couldn’t provide any further details at this time.”

The Cleveland Browns are a professional American football team based in Cleveland (US). Named after the original Coach and Co-founder Paul Brown, they compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the American Football Conference North division.

The 67,431-capacity FirstEnergy Stadium is a stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, United States, primarily for American football. It is the home field of the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League (NFL), and serves as a venue for other events such as college and high school football, soccer, hockey, and concerts.

‘NEWS 5 CLEVELAND’ further stated that though the Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb and his administration did not comment on the above development but the Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin believes the talks needed to start this year because the FirstEnergy Stadium lease between the City and the Browns expires in 2028.

Stated Griffin, “The time is now to start having these conversations. We really need to make sure that the public understands why this investment is possibly needed. I think the more that we spend time on the front end educating the public on whether or not this is a good return on their investment it will go a long way.”

Griffin said it’s too early to discuss how the Northeast Ohio taxpayers would help pay for stadium improvements – “I believe there’s going to have to be a lot of creativity, we’re going to have to have a lot of conversations with our adjoining counties as well as the Cuyahoga County Council and the County Executive. Everybody, the county and quite frankly the region and the State all need to look at what does this asset mean for our region.”

Griffin believes a stadium renovation or a new facility will yield City benefits, and would not take away from needed improvements in many Cleveland neighborhoods – “I want to change that narrative, downtown represents about 50 percent of our economy, so when we bring in those kinds of investments we actually create more income taxpayers, we actually have more admissions tax, we have other things like the bed tax and hotel tax.”

However, Ward 8 Cleveland Councilman Michael Polensek was less enthusiastic about the internal discussions about a stadium renovation. Polensek was one of nine ‘No votes’ for the 1996 funding package that helped to build the current Browns stadium at a cost of more than $280 million, 75 percent of which was publicly-funded.

Said Polensek, “We’ve paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to support the Browns stadium and at the end of the day what did we wind up with, number one in poverty, number one in childhood poverty, 4,000 abandoned houses in the City. I was here, I heard the promises, and they weren’t delivered upon and I wish I could stand here and say I was wrong, but I wasn’t wrong and I’m glad I was one of the nine that voted against it.”

Polensek had his own idea on who should pay for a Browns stadium renovation – “Let the people who go to the Browns games pay, let it be added onto their tickets, let there be an addendum to the tickets. If you want to go the Browns game you pay the additional money. Why should the residents of my neighborhood have to pay for that, and why is it just Cleveland, when the majority of the people in that complex are not from Cleveland during game day?”

The Cleveland Browns spokesperson mentioned about a statement the organization issued back on June 20th, 2022 – “As we have consistently communicated, along with the City of Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Partnership and other prominent local organizations, we have been immersed in discussing ways to best approach the lakefront’s future and the stadium naturally is a critical piece to the long-term execution of such a project. Contrary to recent speculation, a recent feasibility study we launched does not contemplate a new stadium or showcase new stadium sites. [A significant stadium renovation at our current site is the premise of the study as well as a focus on how to provide accessibility to the lakefront, drive density and create 365-destination major development opportunities that would include new public parks, retail, office, experiential and residential spaces.] The vision, as many in our community have already seen, is centered on an extensive land bridge. As we are just beginning the study, we certainly do not have enough information to determine the cost of renovating the stadium or what the aesthetics of such a renovation would entail. We believe our study will help answer those questions and should be completed in 2023. [The future of the stadium is one of several important pieces to the long-term execution of the lakefront project, and our organization looks forward to continuing to work with our community partners and leaders to identify next steps and our role in helping advance this initiative.”

The Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne office said it has not yet been contacted by the Cleveland Browns about the “internal discussions” on stadium renovations.

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