Feasibility studies are currently underway
A lot of northern United States sports teams have constructed indoor stadiums for their teams. There are two thoughts concerning this: makes sense with winter climates, and no thank you because it takes away the tradition of the game that should be played under these extreme conditions.
It seems the Browns are in the beginning stages of conducting feasibility studies to see if a new stadium could be on the horizon for the franchise. Their current lease expires in 2028.
According to a report on neo-trans.blog, two sources close to the Haslam Sports Group have stated that the Browns are looking into building a new venue centered around a ballpark village instead of costly renovations to FirstEnergy Stadium.
The owners of the Browns, Jimmy and Dee Haslam, are not content with the condition of FirstEnergy with the fact that the stadium has aged significantly; plus (according to them) the arena was poorly-built to begin with.
FirstEnergy opened in 1999 as home to the new Browns built on the site of old Cleveland Municipal Stadium which served the community from 1931-1996. The new stadium’s original name was Cleveland Browns Stadium and was built at a cost of $283 million. Crowd capacity for a Browns game is 67,431 which includes 143 executive suites. Two renovation projects were completed in 2014 and 2015.
When the Haslams purchased the Browns, they sold the stadium naming rights to FirstEnergy which was reported to be about $6 million a year for 17 years.
When asked about a new stadium, the Browns’ front office has not responded other than to say that the assumption at this point “is a little too far out in front of the story.”
The question at this juncture is whether to renovate FirstEnergy or build a brand new retractable roof stadium that is not only able to be closed for inclement weather conditions, but would be available year-round for numerous non-sports events. This would increase revenues for the venue. Rough cost analysis has shown that with renovations to the existing stadium plus adding a roof would be very close to the construction of a completely new building.
According to the report, it seems that the Browns are in preliminary talks with the City of Cleveland to develop a sports village which would surround the new stadium similar to what many Major League Baseball teams have accomplished – such as Ballpark Village adjacent to Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
The Browns might even be connected in the proposed Bedrock riverfront plans that Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has designed which includes 29 acres of riverfront land between Huron Road and the Cuyahoga River.
The estimated cost of a new stadium has been mentioned at north of $1 billion. And if a new stadium is eventually in the works, there are two sites earmarked already.
One site is 70 acres of land which the City owns the majority of located west of North Coast Harbor and East 9th Street. The other is where the Post Office currently stands at 2400 Orange Avenue just southeast of downtown. It sits on 36 acres with another 48 acres adjacent to that tract which is owned by the Ohio Department of Transportation. The Post Office bought the old Chevrolet plant with plans to relocate.
These two parcels represent the largest contiguous pieces of land near downtown.
There are traces that indicate that this idea of a new stadium has been brewing for some time. The Browns offered their support to the City as it has gone through a preliminary visioning process that has been in the works for two years. This has involved landscape architects and city planners. The City has also applied to the Ohio Department of Transportation for federal funding which would allow the City to conduct required studies and assessments.
One other item in the works that would have to be ironed out is the proposed land bridge over the railroad tracks.
Regarding the expenditure of a new stadium, the plan would be to sell the existing land owned by the City that the current stadium is located on to developers. As usual, it would be expected that some public funding will be necessary regardless of if FirstEnergy is renovated or new digs are built. Both of these ideas would increase the Haslams’ ability to offset costs.
Apparently, the 25-year mark is the new standard for the life of an NFL stadium as other NFL teams are asking for new stadiums in Washington, Buffalo and Carolina. If Cleveland does indeed build a retractable dome, they would become the only club in the AFC North to have an indoor stadium.
Right now the Browns are wanting to start the conversation of what to do next.
And just maybe, the City of Cleveland could host a Super Bowl.