Before the Browns take the field for the first time at a freshly renovated FirstEnergy Stadium, they'll square off against each other at one of the nation's most iconic spots for college football.
The Browns announced Thursday they will host the "Orange & Brown Scrimmage" in Columbus on Aug. 7 at Ohio Stadium, home of the 2014 College Football Playoff national champion Ohio State Buckeyes. The late afternoon intrasquad scrimmage, which updates the open practice format of the franchise's annual Family Day/Family Night, will be free to all fans.
A finalized start time will be announced at a later date.
"The intrasquad scrimmage is an important element of our preparation for the 2015 season," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "Ohio Stadium will provide a great atmosphere for our team to compete, and I'm confident our players and fans will enjoy the experience."
This marks the third different location for the event in as many years, as the Browns continue their efforts to showcase their competitive brand of football across the state of Ohio. After 2013's Family Night at FirstEnergy Stadium, the Browns were at Akron's InfoCision Stadium last season. Both events drew more than 20,000 fans.
Columbus, a college football-frenzied cornerstone that has grown into one of the nation's largest cities, is also a hotbed for Browns fans. The city's metro area is home to 12 Browns Backers clubs and recently ranked fourth among major cities in viewership for the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Close to 75 years since Columbus housed the office of NFL president Joe F. Carr, Browns President Alec Scheiner and other prominent members in the organization have made regular visits to the state capital over the past few years to further strengthen the franchise's ties to the blossoming area.
"We are thrilled to bring the Browns to our State Capital and to our passionate football fans across the state," Scheiner said. "The Dawg Pound extends across the state and nation, and we know they have a strong presence in the Greater Columbus area. We hope fans from throughout Ohio will be able to experience this event at The Horseshoe to complement our open practices in Berea. We are very grateful for the hospitality extended to us by Columbus, The Ohio State University, the Greater Columbus Sports and the Columbus Partnership to make this event a success."
The scrimmage will provide fans with the opportunity to watch Browns wide receiver Brian Hartline and safety Donte Whitner back in the stadium where they starred as Buckeyes. Hartline, a Canton native, caught 90 passes for 1,429 yards and 12 touchdowns over three seasons at Ohio State while Whitner, who grew up in Cleveland, finished his three-year Buckeye career as an All-American and member of the All-Big Ten first team. The Browns roster boasts a handful of other Ohio natives, including defensive lineman John Hughes, who grew up in nearby Gahanna.
"It's going to be huge for us," Whitner said. "It means a lot to me personally because I lived in Columbus, played for the Buckeyes and know what type of fan base is there for the Buckeyes and for the Cleveland Browns. It'll be special."
Browns 2015 season ticket holders will have the first opportunity to register for free tickets to the scrimmage during a special pre-sale from June 16-19. All other fans can grab their free seats starting June 20.
Fans who plan to attend the event should arrive early. Starting three hours before the scrimmage outside of St. John Arena, a special Columbus edition of Dawg Pound Drive, which serves as a 900-foot engaging space near FirstEnergy Stadium's south gates in the hours leading up to Browns home games, will be open to the public. Fans in Columbus will be able to experience an interactive pre-game space for Browns alumni autographs, meet-and-greet with Swagger, live music stage, food and beverage specials and more.
"We're excited to bring Cleveland Browns football to Central Ohio," said Browns Vice President of Fan Experience and Marketing Kevin Griffin, who was an Ohio State football letterman from 1995-98. "Our goal is to connect with as many members of the Dawg Pound throughout the state as possible. The Orange & Brown Scrimmage gives our fans in Central Ohio a chance to see and interact with their favorite team."
The Browns' full training camp schedule in Berea will be released at a later date. Not including last year's Family Day, the Browns' combined attendance of 43,740 fans -- a group that hailed from 40 different states -- was the team's third-highest since 2005.
Those who made the trek from Columbus won't have to go as far to get their Browns' fix in 2015.
"Our sports community is proud to support the Cleveland Browns having a presence in Columbus," Greater Columbus Sports Commission Executive Director Linda Logan said. "The Orange & Brown Scrimmage will energize their team's fans throughout the Columbus region and provide multiple generations of families the opportunity to experience the NFL up close in Ohio Stadium, one of football's most iconic stadiums."