Let’s be real: FirstEnergy Stadium is among the worst stadiums in the National Football League. It was bad when it was originally designed, and it’s still bad almost 15 years later. I hate get into my normal role of Debbie Downer, but this facility is bad. Last week, the Browns announced their plans for stadium renovations, and yesterday they swindled the city into giving $12 million more than they were required to give in an effort to alleviate Mr. Haslam from paying the bill directly. Based on the math, the city will basically be covering the cost of the interest from any loans they take out, and while I don't think many fans care about Tennessee-shaped scoreboards, the reduction in seating is probably an indicator of the fan base losing interest. No, the Browns haven’t had a blackout in several years, but simply reducing the amount of available seats by almost 4,000 certainly reduces the chances they'll ever have a blackout.
The real question is, will the focus on improving the stadium take away from efforts to improve the product. As Jeff Rich (@JRichRadio) mentioned yesterday on our Browns podcast, ‘Orange and Brown Breakdown,’ the dollars certainly don't come from the same pot, but many of the people who will work on the stadium project will also work on improving the team.
Here’s what I want to know from those who attend Browns games; was the stadium in such poor condition that they needed to make these renovations now? Could they have waited?
My guess overall is that most Browns fans, or fans of any sport, would prefer the Browns improve the team, then worry about the stadium later. Do new and renovated stadiums improve the chances of landing free agents? Probably, but how realistic are the chances of the Browns landing free agents in any market?
The weather in Cleveland isn’t awesome, and since there’s nothing we can do about that, the best solution to landing free agents is to beat good teams and bad teams. The Browns can start by forgetting about what happened in Cincinnati last weekend, and beat Pittsburgh.
The Browns can improve the response of Cleveland residents, who ultimately own the stadium, by winning games. They could have won widespread support by paying for it entirely on their own, but decided to ask the city to foot part of the bill. Certainly, those of who have lived in the city would prefer that money go another source, but I understand that in general it can’t. My only hope is that in 15 years, Haslam and company aren’t standing at 601 Lakeside Avenue complaining how bad the stadium is while the team is in last place.
So, where do we go from here? Well, it seems obvious the Browns will have new scoreboards, reduced seating capacity and maybe, for those who care, improved Wi-Fi and cellular phone reception. Do you think these changes are needed, or could the Browns have waited to make these changes?
Also, who should pay? Yes, the city is obligated to contribute about $30 million over the next 15 years through its lease with the team, but should city contribute an additional $12 million or should Browns pay the entire cost themselves?