The Browns are on board for Draft Day, provided reported plans for the new Kevin Costner film to be shot in Cleveland come to fruition.
“We’ll cooperate,” Browns President Alec Scheiner told the Beacon Journal today during an interview at the team’s headquarters in Berea. “It’s a great thing for the city. It’s a great thing for the team. The NFL has totally blessed this.”
Costner was originally set to star as a fictitious general manager of the Buffalo Bills, but the Buffalo News reported Tuesday he’ll now portray a GM of the Browns. Tim Clark, who heads the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission, told the News economics influenced the change in plans. Cleveland is helped by Ohio's tax credit for film productions.
Lionsgate, the film’s distributor, and the Greater Cleveland Film Commission have yet to announce the recent developments for Draft Day reported by the News.
Scheiner said he knew the possibility existed for the Browns, but he didn’t put much thought into it until the News published its story this week.
“I don’t think that we were a big part of that calculation in some ways,” Scheiner said of Cleveland reportedly being chosen. “I think it’s much more about the cities and the league.”
When the Browns were contacted about shooting locations, Scheiner said they made it clear they’re open to helping. He believes the film has the potential to become a tremendous branding opportunity for the Browns.
“It’s good for the NFL,” Scheiner said. “It’s good for the Browns. It’s good for Cleveland.”
In Draft Day, Costner's character will embark on a mission to reverse the fortunes of a struggling franchise. Principal photography is expected to begin in late April during the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York, according to the News.
Scheiner also addressed several other topics about the Browns and FirstEnergy Stadium during the interview. Here are some excerpts from the question-and-answer session:
Are there any updates in terms of the game day experience that fans will notice in 2013?: “The one thing I can say is we are working really hard on improving our cellphone service for next year, and we’re confident that will be better. And then we’re working on a whole host of other things and we’ll see. We’ve got a little time to figure them out. There are a lot of areas where we think we can improve, and we’re spending a lot of time internally on figuring out how.”
How will you improve cellphone service at FirstEnergy Stadium?: “I can tell you the various ways you can address it. We haven’t gotten all the way there yet on how, but we feel like we’ll be able to figure it out. In different stadiums depending on your technology, you can either build out these DAS towers and it depends on the carriers, right? So let’s say you have a DAS tower that’s an AT&T tower, but you don’t have a Verizon one. Well, your AT&T fans will come and they’ll say actually, it’s pretty good service, and your Verizon ones will say it’s not. So one way to do it is just to make sure those towers apply to all carriers and make sure they’re up to date.”
Does FirstEnergy Stadium have those towers now?: “Yes, there’s an AT&T existing. So for example, when I went to a game last year, I have AT&T, and it worked OK actually. So we can improve that and then we can hopefully make sure other people with other carriers have a better experience. We know that’s important, and then in the future we’ve got to keep making it better. Actually, they talked about this at MIT a couple of years ago. This is actually a more difficult issue than you would think because every time you make it better, people suck up more bandwidth. That’s what happens. So the most advanced stadiums in the world right now, they have kind of the same problem that Cleveland has. That’s because they have much more, but then people want to take videos and send them out and take pictures and send them out. This is an issue in sports. How far can you go to get people exactly what they want, which is as some point to be able to watch video content on their phones.”
In November, Browns CEO Joe Banner told me he hopes FirstEnergy Stadium will be equipped with Wi-Fi by the 2013 season. Is there any progress in that area?: “Here’s my understanding: Wi-Fi and cell service, at some level, if the technology is good enough, they can converge. Right? So historically, stadiums have gone to WiFi because cell service wasn’t strong enough. And so if you were at a game, the only way you could get information was through Wi-Fi. Well, if cell service gets good enough, like LTE or 4G, then it’s possible you don’t need both. It’s possible. So that’s what you have to look at, whether or not technology is good enough from your cell carriers that you can all the things on your phone if you have Wi-Fi in the building. If you’ve ever been in a building with Wi-Fi, the same thing I just told you, people suck up the bandwidth, and it’s possible you’re in a building with Wi-Fi and you’re not getting any service. So we look at it globally. How can we can best get this content to our fans? Is it Wi-Fi? Is it better cell service? But these things can go hand in hand.”
So basically you don’t know right now if you’ll have Wi-Fi?: “We’re just trying to make it better. If it means Wi-Fi, it’s Wi-Fi. If it’s better cell service, it’s better cell service. And then the future could change with respect to all of these things.”
It could be both, though?: “It could be both. I’ve been to places with both, and it doesn’t always work. It’s not like if you have both it’s necessarily better.”
How many people will work out of the team’s Berea headquarters after the facility’s renovation is complete? Will some employees still work at FirstEnergy Stadium?: “One of our goals is to get as many people who work for the Cleveland Browns as possible under one roof. You can imagine there’s some people that work at the stadium who just have to work at the stadium. For example, the stadium engineer probably has to stay at the stadium. But other than that, we’re going to try to get as many people to work here as possible.”
Will the practice fields in Berea be redone or expanded?: “No, this is an interior renovation project.”
Can you explain the announcement that was made this week about fans no longer needing to buy Personal Seat Licenses to purchase season tickets?: “There were already sections in the stadium where you didn’t need to buy PSLs to get season tickets. We’ve just expanded those to include all of the ones in the stadium. So we kept ticket prices flat. We removed the requirement to purchase PSLs. We think it’s just as affordable as it can be right now to come to a Browns game. And a lot of that was driven by what our fans told us.”
People who have never had season tickets do not need to buy PSLs to buy season tickets. So what about the people who already have PSLs?: “We think this is good for them too for two reasons. One is it’s simple supply and demand, which is we’ve now capped the amount of PSLs there are. PSLs come with some really neat benefits. You own the seats. You can transfer the seats. So let’s say you have a PSL, and hopefully we get really good and these seats are just harder and harder to come by. You have the right because you own that seat, No. 1 you know you’re going to have that seat for as long as we’re at the stadium. No. 2 you know that you can pass that seat on whereas someone who doesn’t have a PSL can’t do that. The second thing we did was we recognized that people had bought PSLs and we wanted to give them an additional benefit. So we said, ‘Look, if you’ve got four PSLs, you can go buy four new season tickets and your four PSLs will attach to those four new tickets.’ So we kind of capped it at the amount you already held. But we allowed you to go buy new season tickets, and you would have PSL benefits that come with those tickets.”
In January, owner Jimmy Haslam said the Browns submitted notification to the NFL that they’re preparing to change their uniforms, something that couldn’t be done until 2014. Is there any update on uniform changes?: “That’s the last I know.”
Do you have any other thoughts on the uniforms or why it might be important to update them?: “I don’t. We’re working through that. We’ll work through it.”
In terms of the Costner movie, have you ever been a part of anything like this before?: “No, we had [HBO's] Hard Knocks when I was in Dallas. We had Hard Knocks one training camp, but I don’t think I made it one camera.”
Do you think Hard Knocks could come to Cleveland? You guys have the Travel Channel show, but that’s obviously a different type of show: “I don’t know. We haven’t put any thought into that.”
Do you think the Cowboys benefited from Hard Knocks? Would you do it again if it was your call?: “I think there are lots of benefits to it, but I think you have to really take into account your situation. What are you trying to achieve? Who’s in charge? How long have they been in charge? There are a lot of factors that come into play. It can be good. I can see why some teams at certain points in time might not want to do it.”
Does it just boil down to the comfort of your coaching staff?: “Well, it’s your football staff that’s essentially put on TV, and you just think about it from your own perspective, or my perspective. If someone followed me around with cameras for two months, I might say, ‘I don’t know.’”
Are there any updates on potential enhancements to FirstEnergy Stadium?: “No updates yet.”
So nothing new on scoreboards, FieldTurf?: “We have to work on all those things.”
What about a retractable roof?: “We’ll look at everything we can look at. We will.”