Nothing gets fans and citizens more upset than talking about professional sports stadiums. That has been true when it comes to Cleveland Browns Stadium, formerly FirstEnergy Field. Whether it is the bigger picture discussion about who will pay for it, where it will be placed if a new one is built or the simple detail of “to dome or not to dome,” opinions run wild.
What is clear is that the decisions surrounding the Browns stadium are complex. Access to the stadium, waterfront development, the foundation on which the current stadium was built, changing highways and much more create difficult decisions which all seem to impact one another.
Rumors have run rampant this offseason that decisions were nearing related to the future of the stadium. Some believed the Haslam Sports Group was going to demand a new stadium while most believed the city would push back on the expense and feasibility of such on a new site.
Cleveland’s stadium is tied with the Tennesee Titans (who are likely to open a new stadium in 2026) for the 12th oldest in the league. Hamilton County is already looking into the idea of building a new stadium for the Cincinnati Bengals whose home opened a year after the Browns.
A new, wide-ranging report provides a ton of details about what is next in the Cleveland stadium situation. The report covers a variety of details, two of which likely impact the team that plays in the stadium.
The first is that the Berea projects are likely to take a year more than expected:
During the renovation of the CrossCountry Mortgage Campus, the Browns offseason training programs may have to be relocated for up to one year. Expansion of the campus will take longer — more than one year and may be carried out in phases depending on financing and city approvals. The expanded campus will reportedly include a new hotel, restaurants, shops, conference facilities. The Haslams and the city have already acquired more than 30 acres of land and demolished many homes and a church for this massive expansion of the Browns’ Berea facilities.
The second and even greater piece of news is that, because the new project is being considered a “rebuild” and not a renovation, the Browns could be playing two or three seasons away from Cleveland:
That means the Browns will play for two to three seasons at another location.
It isn’t publicly known yet where the Browns will play, but Columbus is a likely location. The Haslams already have a presence there with their Columbus Crew Major League Soccer club. Its venue, the two-year-old, soccer-specific Lower.com Field, seats only 20,371. When the Browns played their first Orange & Brown Scrimmage on Aug. 7, 2015, they played to 49,734 fans at the Ohio State University’s 102,734-seat Ohio Stadium (aka The Horseshoe).
Again, the wide array of details in the report about the Browns stadium deserve attention but the ones noted above would seem to impact the team and fans the most. Running offseason activities away from Berea would feel strange to many fans but playing home games outside of the city could lead to significant issues including the loss of revenue for Cleveland.
It will be interesting how much of this new report comes to pass. As noted in the article, the Haslams seem to want a new stadium and a renovation doesn’t seem acceptable. The city wants a renovation and a new stadium doesn’t seem acceptable. Could a rebuild be the compromise?