The home of the Cleveland Browns has a new name: “FirstEnergy Stadium, Home of the Cleveland Browns.”
“It’s a very special day for the Cleveland Browns, for FirstEnergy, and we believe, for northeastern Ohio,” Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said during Tuesday’s news conference at the stadium’s City View Club announcing the naming-rights deal. “It’s great to not only have partners who are going to be financial partners, but also big fans. We believe FirstEnergy and the Cleveland Browns share the same culture, the same desire to win. We’re tremendously excited about this opportunity.
“When we announced back in August that we did want this stadium to have naming rights, it was our sincere hope and desire that it would be a Cleveland or northeastern Ohio company for all of the obvious reasons. When FirstEnergy stepped up really early in the game and said they had an interest, it was a real pleasure for us.”
During the news conference, FirstEnergy Chief Executive Officer Tony Alexander talked about the fact that he and other company executives on hand for the announcement -- Charles Jones, President of FirstEnergy Utilities, and George Smart, the non-executive Chairman of the FirstEnergy Board of Directors -- were already huge Browns fans before the deal was made.
“I’ve always been a fan of the Browns,” Alexander said. “When you look to guys like Chuck Jones and George Smart, they are really die-hard fans. Chuck comes to every game, sits outside, loves to wear the Cleveland gear, loves it when the weather’s bad. That’s part of the history of this great franchise.”
Browns CEO Joe Banner and Cleveland City Council President Martin J. Sweeney said the partnership between the Browns and FirstEnergy will be beneficial to the team, the city and the region.
“To believe in us at this point in time and show the faith in who we are and who we’re going to be before we’ve really stepped up and proven it is meaningful to us,” Banner said. “It’s something we won’t forget. We’re deeply appreciative and proud.”
Sweeney added, “This naming rights question has been around since 1999, and in four months, that question has been answered. Decisive decisions are going to be good for the City of Cleveland. We need to position ourselves for success in this city and this marriage does that.”
Built in 1999, FirstEnergy Stadium cost more than $290 million with contributions made at the city, state and county levels, as well as with help from the Regional Transit Authority, Cleveland Browns and Cleveland Tomorrow. The 1.64-million-square-foot space on the 31-acre site was originally the home of Cleveland Municipal Stadium, which was demolished before the Browns’ return to the NFL in 1999 after the original team was moved to Baltimore.
Haslam said that Banner, and President Alec Scheiner, will immediately start working with various architects from around the country on ways to enhance the stadium.
“We want it to be a better place for fans for 10 games,” Haslam said. “The best thing we can do is win, and if you win, I think the fans will come and the fans will support us.”
New Browns coach Rob Chudzinski, former Browns wide receivers Reggie Langhorne and Brian Brennan, offensive lineman Doug Dieken, defensive back Hanford Dixon, and running backs Kevin Mack and Greg Pruitt were also on hand for the announcement.