By Tom Withers
CLEVELAND: The Browns and the city of Cleveland reached a tentative agreement to fund a two-year, $120 million makeover of FirstEnergy Stadium.
The deal announced Tuesday by Mayor Frank Jackson and Browns CEO Joe Banner calls for the team to finance the entire cost for the renovation while recouping $42 million from the city.
The Browns will use a low-interest, $62.5 million loan from the NFL and private funding.
Also, the team will be paid $2 million per year by the city over the next 15 years, funds that are already obligated under the team’s lease.
An additional $12 million will come from a capital repair fund, which was previously established according to the lease. The deal must be approved by Cleveland’s City Council. The city owns the lakefront stadium and surrounding property.
“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,” Jackson said.
Last week, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Banner announced details for planned improvements to the 15-year-old stadium. But they did not indicate how they intended to pay for the project.
In the first phase, the Browns plan to install giant scoreboards — three times the size of current ones — and install LED video boards and a new audio system.
The second phase will increase seating in the lower bowl, improving sightlines for fans.
Also, two new escalators will be installed to improve pedestrian traffic flow. There are also plans to improve concession areas, upgrade club seats and suites and add more top-level entertainment areas.
Jackson said he will seek to extend a county tax, which expires at the end of 2015, to raise more funds.
The Browns are hoping to begin construction on the first phase soon after the Dec. 15 home finale against Chicago.
The announcement marked the second major change involving the stadium in 2013.
Back in January, Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. entered into a stadium naming rights deal with the Browns that pays the team $6 million a year.
The contract is for 17 years — the remainder of the 30-year lease the Browns have with the city. The total value of the naming rights agreement is $102 million.
When the contract was completed, the stadium name was changed from Cleveland Browns Stadium to FirstEnergy Stadium: Home of the Cleveland Browns.
FirstEnergy’s deal included exclusive rights to be the only electric energy provider to place signage. Other terms include: illuminated exterior sign and internal signs, among them a FirstEnergy Stadium sign at the 50-yard line on each side of the stadium; a certain percentage of time on LED screens; tickets for employees; Browns player and coach appearances at FirstEnergy events, and a rooftop sign visible from aerial views.