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Browns notebook: Architecture firm, construction company selected for FirstEnergy Stadium renovation

By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer

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The Browns have selected Los Angeles-based architecture firm Gensler to design a major renovation of FirstEnergy Stadium and chosen New York-based Turner Construction Co. as the general contractor for the two-year project, SportsBusinessDaily.com reported Monday, citing industry sources.

Browns CEO Joe Banner responded to inquiries about the report in a statement.

“We have consistently communicated that improving the fan experience is one of our priorities,” Banner said in the statement. “We have engaged Gensler architectural firm and Turner Construction to explore every opportunity to help us accomplish this through a potential renovation. This process is in the early stages, so it would be premature to discuss financial parameters, but when we have specific details, we will certainly share our plans with our fans and the community.”

The renovation is expected to cost more than $100 million, according to the report.

In a story published July 7, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam told ESPNCleveland.com that the $100 million-plus in improvements would be done in two phases — one after the 2013 season and another following the 2014 season.

FirstEnergy Stadium, formerly known as Cleveland Browns Stadium, opened in 1999 and seats more than 73,200.

In an interview with the Beacon Journal in November, Banner indicated that the installation of new scoreboards and sound systems at the stadium would be among the items on the agenda.

“Clearly in the area of technology as it relates to scoreboards and sound systems, things have advanced so far from when these systems came from,” Banner said. “I don’t want to prejudge anything, but it’s inconceivable we won’t be making some very dramatic changes there.”

In his previous role as president of the Philadelphia Eagles, Banner spearheaded the development of Lincoln Financial Field, which opened in 2003. Last month, the Eagles announced they hired Gensler and Turner Construction for a $125 million revitalization of their stadium that’s scheduled to be completed before the start of the 2014 regular season. Turner was also a part of the original construction team in 2001.

The Browns are expected to announce their planned stadium enhancements later this month, according to SportsBusinessDaily.com.

Forbes ranking

The Browns are ranked 34th on Forbes’ list of the world’s 50 most valuable sports teams of 2013 with an estimated value of $987 million.

The Browns are 21st among the 30 NFL franchises on the list. They’re third in the AFC North, behind the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens (19th overall, $1.157 billion) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (23rd overall, $1.1 billion) and ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals (42nd overall, $871 million).

The Dallas Cowboys ($2.1 billion) are ranked fifth overall and first among NFL teams. The St. Louis Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars are the only NFL teams that missed the top 50, and they’re ranked 51st and 52nd, respectively.

European soccer power Real Madrid tops the entire list at $3.3 billion.

Forbes also broke down the combined number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers of each team in the top 50. According to the magazine, the Browns have about 800,000. Only six teams in the top 50 are listed with fewer social-media followings.

Here is Forbes’ summary of the Browns, who ranked 30th on the magazine’s list last year with an estimated value of $977 million: “Truck stop magnate Haslam bought the Browns from Randy Lerner for a price of $1.05 billion. Haslam bought 70 percent of the team in October and will buy Lerner’s remaining stake in 2015, which makes the net present value of the transaction less than $1 billion. The FBI is investigating Haslam’s company, Pilot Flying J, for possible fraud.”

PFJ update

A letter from Haslam, the CEO of Pilot Flying J, to trucking customers dated July 12 and obtained by the Knoxville News Sentinel states that six members of the company’s sales team have resigned or were terminated while three more are on administrative leave. The letter also outlines four additions to the sales team.

The FBI and Internal Revenue Service raided Pilot Flying J’s headquarters April 15 in Knoxville, Tenn., as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations that the company cheated trucking customers out of millions of dollars of diesel fuel rebates. The probe has yielded guilty pleas from five employees thus far.

The letter also states: “We have completed the review of all of our manual rebate customers’ accounts and paid all discrepancies found in the customers’ favor, with interest.”

Several trucking companies have filed lawsuits against Pilot Flying J.

Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.


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