CLEVELAND: Selling naming rights for Cleveland Browns Stadium is only the beginning of the culture change the organization will experience with owner Jimmy Haslam and his new regime in charge.
After the Browns and Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. announced Tuesday that Cleveland Browns Stadium will now be known as FirstEnergy Stadium: Home of the Cleveland Browns, Haslam and CEO Joe Banner discussed some plans they hope to implement in the not-too-distant future. In addition to the stadium, the team’s headquarters and its uniforms could be in store for makeovers.
Haslam said three or four of the top architects in the country will meet with Banner and new team President Alec Scheiner in the next 30 days to discuss potential stadium enhancements. New scoreboards, sound systems and even a roof are possibilities that will be explored for the lakefront stadium, which seats more than 73,200 and opened in 1999. During an interview with the Beacon Journal in November, Banner said he hoped the stadium would be equipped with Wi-Fi this year.
“We’re very open about what might happen with the stadium,” Haslam said Tuesday. “We do want it to be a better place for fans to attend games.
“That could include everything from keeping the restrooms cleaner to having shorter lines to what we might do with signage to what we might do with Wi-Fi.”
Haslam said no decision has been made about whether FieldTurf will replace grass as the stadium’s playing surface.
“That’s to be determined,” Haslam said. “I want to be real careful there because there are some strong feelings. Some people are real strong artificial surface and some are real pro grass. We are going to take a look at everything.”
When asked what the top priorities for the stadium are now that the naming-rights deal is done, Banner said, “Well, I think that’s what we want [the architects] to tell us. I think we’ll go through our own sense of the fan experience to getting out of the car, all the way to getting to their seat, waiting in the concession line. We’ve already started to work in how [we’re going to handle] game-day music, video, halftime-type things, just brainstorming at this point. So I think we really need them to look at the building and tell us what’s possible from something that may be modest to something that could be quite significant.”
Banner said Browns officials have already met with architects about possibly expanding the team’s headquarters and practice facility that opened in 1991 in Berea. Several team employees who work in sales, marketing and other departments have offices in the stadium, but Banner said he wants the headquarters to be able to house the entire organization.
“One of the primary objectives is to try to get everybody in one place,” Banner said.
Haslam said the Browns also are preparing to modify their uniforms.
“It’s a two-year process in the NFL,” Haslam said. “We’ve notified the NFL we would like to take a look at our uniforms. So if we do make any changes, it will be for the 2014 season.”
But Haslam has learned he must strike the right balance between making changes and maintaining tradition to keep Browns fans — and his customers — happy. That’s why he vowed not to mess with the team’s orange, logo-less helmets.
“Write this down,” Haslam said. “We’re not touching the helmets.”
The Browns’ lack of cheerleaders also sets them apart from other NFL teams. And Haslam shot down any notion that ladies with pompoms will one day strut along the sidelines at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“No, they don’t fit Cleveland,” he said.
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.