By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: The Browns are serious when they list improving the game-day experience at FirstEnergy Stadium as their top goal other than building a consistent winner.
For example, Browns President Alec Scheiner said the organization interviewed more than 30 people before choosing Kevin Griffin as its vice president of fan experience and marketing in May. Since then, Scheiner and Griffin have been communicating with the public via phone, Twitter, email and surveys, gathering ideas about how to enhance the experience at the stadium.
The Browns are 41-71 at home since their rebirth in 1999, so winning would certainly trump any other item on the wish lists of fans. But while coach Rob Chudzinski and his staff attempt to spearhead a turnaround on the field, Scheiner and Griffin are trying to change the identity of the franchise on another front.
“We know we have a lot of work to do,” Scheiner said.
With that in mind, Scheiner unveiled the Browns’ plan of attack during a news conference Monday before the fifth full-squad practice of training camp.
Scheiner said helping fans enter the stadium faster is a main priority, so 20 new turnstiles and 44 new security screening chutes have been installed. The Browns estimate those improvements will allow an additional 4,000 fans to enter the stadium every 15 minutes.
Scheiner also believes a new NFL security policy requiring fans to use transparent bags will aid stadium ingress. The Browns will mail clear bags featuring their helmet logo to season-ticket holders before the start of the regular season. There will be express lanes in certain areas of the stadium for people who don’t bring bags.
“The fans have talked to us,” Scheiner said. “They’ve been pretty clear that when they get to the stadium, it takes too long to get into the stadium. So we’re going to fix that.”
The Browns’ new approach to stadium ingress will start with their preseason opener Aug. 8 against the St. Louis Rams. Scheiner said many of the other fan-experience initiatives won’t be rolled out until the regular-season opener Sept. 8 against the Miami Dolphins.
Another point of emphasis is improving cellphone service at the stadium. Scheiner said a new DAS (Distributed Antenna System) tower from Verizon will be added, and the AT&T tower will be upgraded. Scheiner said those towers will improve the service of other cell providers, too.
Scheiner said the Browns don’t know whether they’ll add Wi-Fi service to the stadium because they hope enhanced cell service will solve the problem of limited web access on mobile devices.
“DAS and Wi-Fi can play off each other, and we’ll see how much success we have with the cell towers,” Scheiner said. “If we need to add more technology, we will.
“If you’re a consumer or fan, you really just care about being able to get on your mobile device, and that’s what we’re trying to tackle. I think sometimes people confuse the two issues. Really all you care about as a fan is can I use my phone or can I use my iPad. We’ll see if we get there this year. We’ll test it out throughout the year, and if not, we’ll look at different technologies.”
Stadium security has undergone a makeover, too. Scheiner said the Browns have hired California-based CSC to head their security operations. CSC replaces Tenable.
“We’ve hired CSC, which we think will help [with safety at the stadium],” Scheiner said. “We also know that we kind of want to harness the energy of our fans, and so you think of different stadiums around the league where the fans are really passionate, but it’s a safe environment, and that’s what we’d like to replicate. I think we’ve got a good atmosphere for football games.”
Speaking of atmosphere, pregame player introductions and game-day music will be revamped.
The introductions will feature pyrotechnics and a new video on the scoreboard.
“We’ve talked to our coaches, we’ve talked to our players, it’ll look a lot different — our pregame introductions,” Scheiner said. “We hope that pregame is good enough that people are not going to want to miss it.
“I think it’s very important for your players and your team. They know you’re committed and then they get revved up and the fans get revved up, and it kind of feeds on itself.”
The Browns will use a deejay on the field before games and a separate one in a booth during games, Scheiner said. A drum line will also be featured.
“There are about eight NFL teams that we are aware of that [have a drum line], and it brings a lot of energy pregame and in the parking lots and then during the game,” Scheiner said.
The Browns have also upgraded their team shop at the stadium and have added several kiosks or mini-stores throughout the concourse, Scheiner said.
“We think all these things together will enhance the fan experience,” Scheiner said. “… This is really just the beginning for us. The more feedback from our fans, the better.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.