Browns fans will need to fire up their web browsers and register online if they want a first-hand look at “Manzielmania” invading training camp this summer at the team’s headquarters in Berea.
Bracing for record-setting crowds eager to watch rookie phenom Johnny Manziel attempt to usurp North Olmsted native Brian Hoyer as the starting quarterback, the Browns will require fans to register online to gain admittance to camp, a team spokesman confirmed Friday for the Beacon Journal. The logistics of the registration are still being worked out.
Camp is scheduled to begin in late July, and practices still will be free and open to the public. But because of the attention Manziel has brought the Browns since they drafted him 22nd overall on May 8, fans will need to sign up before they visit the team’s practice facility.
Browns President Alec Scheiner revealed the plan for online registration Friday during an interview with the Associated Press.
He said the system would be used so the Browns “don’t turn away 2,000 or 3,000 fans who just show up.” Scheiner said the organization would announce when capacity is reached, but fans can still come and wait to enter the facility.
The Browns can accommodate about 5,000 fans for a practices.
Last summer, they averaged 2,475 fans per practice in Berea and hosted a camp-record 4,466 on July 28.
The team said in a statement that online registration “will help us effectively accommodate as many people as possible, especially after a record number of Browns fans joined us in Berea for training camp last year.”
Scheiner also echoed to the AP what coach Mike Pettine revealed earlier this month at the Akron Browns Backers banquet: The franchise is exploring the possibility of moving camp to a college campus as early as next year. The Browns previously held camp at Bowling Green (1946-51), Hiram (1952-74), Kent State (1975-81) and Lakeland Community College (1982-91) before moving it to Berea in 1992.
Relocating camp again would not only allow the Browns to accommodate more fans, but it also would create an environment Pettine favors from a coaching standpoint.
“I was always a part of a team that went away [for training camp],” Pettine said of his previous coaching stints with the Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.
“You put the players in a setting where maybe it requires a little more focus. You take the players away from their comforts of home and get them away from their families. They’re concentrated completely on football. But it’s quite an undertaking. It’s something I would say is a possibility in the future.”
If the Browns eventually move camp, Scheiner told the AP he expects the new site to be within driving distance of Cleveland.
“We’ll look at it,” Scheiner said.
“If there’s something that makes sense, we’ll look at it. If there’s not, we won’t. But we’re going to start looking at it carefully.”
Either way, Berea will feel the force of Manziel’s immense popularity this summer.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.