Exterior photo of FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. Home of the Cleveland Browns.

Image Credit: Erik Drost (CC BY 2.0)

FirstEnergy Stadium has been home to the Cleveland Browns since 1999. The team’s lease with the stadium will expire in 2028 and by that time, it will be one of the oldest stadiums in the National Football League. Earlier this week, Cleveland Browns owner Dee Haslam went on record to say that the organization is looking at either renovating FirstEnergy Stadium or building another stadium in downtown Cleveland. The organization is studying both options and are hoping to incorporate the stadium into some type of development that would help revitalize downtown Cleveland, Ohio.

FirstEnergy Stadium was known as Cleveland Browns Stadium until the team sold the venue’s naming rights in 2014 to FirstEnergy, an electric utility company in Akron, Ohio. The stadium received a $120M renovation that took place during the summers of 2014 and 2015. The renovation included

  • New LED video boards that were three times the size of the previous video boards.
  • More seats were added to the lower level which put fans closer to the action.
  • New escalators were added to the end zones.
  • Face-lifts to the entry gates, concession stands and premium club areas.

In all likelihood, the Cleveland Browns will entertain the idea of building a stadium that resembles U.S. Bank Stadium, new home of the Minnesota Vikings. U.S. Bank Stadium has an enclosed roof that protects fans from the weather. An enclosed stadium would enable the city of Cleveland to potentially host a Super Bowl as well as winter concerts, major wrestling events and the Final Four. In 2014, the city of Cleveland gave the greenlight to Trammel Crow Co. and Cumberland Development to build new real estate in the undeveloped areas outside of FirstEnergy Stadium. The neighborhood is progressing slowly.

Luckily for the city of Cleveland, the Haslam family have stated that they would be willing to pay for most of the construction costs for a new Cleveland Browns stadium. Cleveland, Ohio doesn’t have the tax base that it once had. Since 1997, more than $6.7B in taxpayer dollars were used to help fund the construction and renovation of sports stadiums. There has even been legislation introduced that would prevent public tax dollars from being used to pay for the construction and renovation of sports stadiums. As public concerns over their tax dollars increase, sports owners will need resort to playing in their stadiums longer or relocating to other cities that have wealthier tax bases.

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s a growing trend for sports teams to want to build new stadiums every 20 years or so. Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves are the two most recent examples. These two teams placed great importance on building their new stadiums in the middle of mixed-use developments that feature bars, restaurants, hotels, retail and residential living. Currently, the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians play at stadiums that are adjacent to each other in a development called “The Gateway District”.

The other side of the coin is that teams want to offer all of the new bells and whistles that will attract the casual fans to games. The Atlanta Hawks are currently renovating Philips Arena at a cost of nearly $200 million. The renovated Philips Arena will feature “topgolf” suites, a barbershop overlooking the court and cabana-style private suites.


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