CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns and the Cleveland Mayor’s office have reached a tentative agreement on a funding plan for the two-year, $120 million renovation project for FirstEnergy Stadium that is scheduled to begin after the 2013 regular season.
In the agreement, which must be approved by Cleveland City Council, the Browns will pay the $120 million up front and receive $2 million from the city each year over the remaining 15 years of the stadium lease.
Browns chief executive officer Joe Banner and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson announced the agreement at the Mayor’s Office inside Cleveland City Hall on Tuesday afternoon.
“This city is lucky to have three great facilities all within the city,” Banner said. “It’s important we all be in the position to maintain the quality of those facilities and the location of the facilities going forward. We’re in strong support of the passage of the sin tax.”
Mayor Jackson added, “This is a very comprehensive agreement that looks at today. It looks at tomorrow. It looks the end of the lease. It looks at services. It looks at capital investments. It looks at all those things that we are obligated to do as a city.
“We are arranging this in a way that will allow them to have a better fan experience, an improved stadium, a more attractive stadium. It will lessen our burden in the future and it will provide for the type of facility that the Browns need.”
The $120 million renovation project is a two-phase undertaking designed to help modernize FirstEnergy Stadium.
In phase one, the Browns will upgrade the video and audio presentation in the stadium with new LED video boards in each end zone that are triple the size of the current boards and closer to the field. The audio system will be significantly improved.
Also, during the first phase, the Browns will increase the seating capacity within the lower bowl of the stadium to give fans better views of the field and an increased home-field advantage for the team to enjoy on game day. The Browns will install new escalators in each end zone that will allow fans to conveniently move between the stadium’s five levels.
In the second phase, the Browns will work on general admission and concession-area concerns and upgrades to the club and suite-level seating.
Mayor Jackson said he agreed to the financing plan because it “wouldn’t do anything to put the city in jeopardy.”
“It will give us the ability, after the 15 years, to have a stadium that is in good shape and that will be something for not just football, but for many other events,” Mayor Jackson said. “This will come out of the general fund, so any project that is slated to be done in the neighborhoods will be done. Any projects slated to be invested in, in the future, that’s why we have bonds and other kinds of capital money.
“After consulting with our finance people, this is the amount of money we can contribute for the next 15 years without lowering services to the people and without impacting capital investments in neighborhoods.”
As part of the agreement, the Browns will have input on how the city spends the capital funds raised through the sin tax. The funds are earmarked for facility improvements, which include structural repairs, waterproofing, roof repairs and replacement, concrete and asphalt work, lighting repair and replacement, and any repairs to the plumbing, electrical, HVAC and pump station systems.
“The goal was to make sure after we spent the $120 million that we continue to invest in a reasonable way, a collaborative way that helped us maintain the level the stadium’s going to be at when we finish this,” Banner said.
“We actually view this as a significant savings to the city. By us paying the money up front, the city avoids having to issue any kind of bonds which come with a lot of legal fees, a lot of placement fees, a lot of things they won’t have to cover and diminish their own ability to borrow.”
Click here for more information about the FirstEnergy Stadium modernization project.