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Browns, city reach tentative agreement on how to pay for $120 million stadium renovation

By Nate Ulrich Published: November 19, 2013

The City of Cleveland and the Browns have reached a tentative agreement on how the team’s proposed $120 million, two-year renovation project for FirstEnergy Stadium will be paid, Mayor Frank Jackson and Browns CEO Joe Banner announced this afternoon during a news conference. City Council must approve the agreement for it to be finalized. The details of the agreement are outlined below in a news release from the city and the Browns.

Pending City Council approval, the City of Cleveland and the Cleveland Browns have reached an agreement regarding the renovations of city-owned FirstEnergy Stadium. The Cleveland Browns will invest $120 million toward improvements and capital repairs. Additionally, the team will continue to pay 100 percent of the operating and maintenance expenses to meet its obligations under the lease.

To support this significant investment, the City plans to commit $2 million a year for the next 15 years or $30 million from the City’s operating fund. This represents a present-day value of $22 million. These funds will help fulfill the City’s obligations outlined in the stadium lease for capital repairs and improvements. In addition, with $24 million remaining in the existing sin tax fund for future repairs, as part of the agreement, the City has granted the Browns the right to provide input on how $12 million of that money will be spent on specific infrastructure components, starting in 2016. 

“This $120 million renovation is a result of wanting to create the best fan experience in the NFL for our fans and players, and also to create a venue to attract other world-class events at FirstEnergy Stadium,” said Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam. “We realize the transformative opportunity of this investment for the City of Cleveland and worked with Mayor Jackson to help minimize their costs and create the most productive agreement moving forward. We are excited to reward our fans and the community with the experience they deserve.”

“The city owns a very valuable asset in FirstEnergy Stadium and the proactive investment in it by Jimmy Haslam and the Cleveland Browns is significant,” conveyed Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson. “Funding these renovations will protect and enhance the investments we have made in the stadium over the years and will strengthen Cleveland’s reputation as a destination city.”

The Jackson Administration will submit legislation to Cleveland City Council for its review and consideration for passage.

Details of the proposed renovations

During the first year of the proposed modernization, the Browns would install two new video boards nearly triple the size of the boards currently in each end zone, moving them closer to the fans. Throughout the stadium, the plan also calls for LED video boards, which would feature stats, scores and information, and installation of an entirely new audio system, delivering crisper, clearer audio everywhere in the facility.

In 2014, the project would also increase the lower bowl’s seating capacity while improving sightlines. Many Browns fans would be closer to the field and observe dramatically better views of the game, fostering a more intimate environment while enhancing the team’s home-field advantage.

Easing in-stadium access for fans and ensuring continued ADA compliance is another priority in the plan’s initial stage. Two new escalators would be installed in both the north and south end zones to ensure the most fluid, convenient movement in and between stadium levels. At the end of the proposed project, there would be 12 escalators providing access to stadium levels.

In 2015, the Browns are hoping to improve general-admission concession areas, boasting revamped and unique locally based offerings. Additionally, the second phase would modernize premium areas, including upgrading club seats and suites, while adding more top-level entertainment areas, and creating new hospitality and fan-engagement opportunities.

Also during the project’s second phase, new dramatic graphics honoring the Browns’ illustrious history and current players would be fashioned throughout the stadium and its concourses to improve the facility’s aesthetics. Plus, there would be a continued emphasis on offering the most up-to-date technology, with a heightened focus on providing reliable connectivity on all fan devices, and creative ways to use those devices in the stadium.  

The plan received conceptual approval from the Cleveland Planning Commission on Nov. 15.

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