Recently, there have been rumors that the Cleveland Browns want a new stadium to be built for them.
Their current stadium, FirstEnergy Stadium, opened for business in 1999, the year the modern iteration of the team started out.
As is almost always the case when a team wants a new arena, the Haslam family, which owns the Browns, appears to be looking for help from taxpayers to fund the construction of such an arena.
The new arena the Haslams reportedly want could cost over $1 billion, according to cleveland.com.
But the Browns put out a public statement in response to these rumors, claiming that they merely want to renovate FirstEnergy Stadium.
“As we have consistently communicated, along with the City of Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Partnership and other prominent local organizations, we have been immersed in discussing ways to best approach the lakefront’s future and the stadium naturally is a critical piece to the long-term execution of such a project,” the Browns said in a statement. “Contrary to recent speculation, a recent feasibility study we launched does not contemplate a new stadium or showcase new stadium sites. A significant stadium renovation at our current site is the premise of the study as well as a focus on how to provide accessibility to the lakefront, drive density and create 365-destination major development opportunities that would include new public parks, retail, office, experiential and residential spaces. The vision, as many in our community have already seen, is centered on an extensive land bridge. As we are just beginning the study, we certainly do not have enough information to determine the cost of renovating the stadium or what the aesthetics of such a renovation would entail. We believe our study will help answer those questions and should be completed in 2023. The future of the stadium is one of several important pieces to the long-term execution of the lakefront project, and our organization looks forward to continuing to work with our community partners and leaders to identify next steps and our role in helping advance this initiative.”
Browns fans may not be able to resist thinking about the last time the owner of the team wanted a new arena built.
The Art Modell Saga
The original Browns played their first season in 1946, and they officially joined the NFL for the 1949 campaign.
In their early years, they were a force, as they reached the league championship game for 10 straight seasons, and they won four NFL championships during the 1950s and 1960s.
Art Modell purchased the team in 1961, and although it continued to build a strong following in The Land, he began to have financial problems in the 1970s.
The Browns shared the old Cleveland Stadium with Major League Baseball’s Indians, but when the Indians moved to their own arena in 1994, Modell was sorely in need of help.
He wanted a referendum placed on the ballot that would fund a renovation of Cleveland Stadium or perhaps even a new arena, but in the end, Modells started to secretly plan a move to Baltimore.
Once he announced the move, the citizens of Cleveland, who are among the most loyal sports fans in the nation, were livid, and Modell became the most hated man in town.
Sure but that doesn’t factor into people’s decisions. Especially I a town that lost their team when an owner didn’t get their brand new stadium (right or wrong). This is a browns town
— Jay (@skpmd) June 20, 2022
Art Modell moving the Browns to Baltimore.
— Nick Danger (@Falconetti14) June 16, 2022
Under a unique arrangement, the city of Cleveland got to retain the Browns logo, likeness, history, accomplishments and archives, even though everyone in the organization was moving to Maryland.
The Browns franchise was “reactivated” in 1999, complete with a new stadium.
Is This The Right Time For The Browns To Be Asking For A New Stadium?
There is no doubt that the Browns, despite possessing a young and promising roster, have an image problem.
Their recent trade for star quarterback Deshaun Watson has given the team bad optics due to the many lawsuits he is facing for alleged misconduct, and it has seemingly become a wedge that has divided the team’s fanbase.
In addition, the Browns are still dealing with the Baker Mayfield saga, as he has asked to be traded but hasn’t been moved yet.
Mayfield hasn’t helped his cause much with his mercurial nature.
In the end, the Browns’ current lease at FirstEnergy Stadium is valid until 2028, which will give them seven more seasons at the site.
The Haslams have already come under fire for going after Watson despite his legal woes, and if they publicly bid for taxpayer money to either renovate FirstEnergy Stadium or build a new arena, it could make them look even worse simply due to timing.
They may be better served figuring out a contingency plan for if and when Watson gets suspended by the NFL.