The first step in the two-year, $120-million renovation of FirstEnergy Stadium has mostly been about getting rid of the old to make room for the new.
Crews are in the process of removing existing video boards in each end zone, upper-level and end-zone seats, and the interior of the audio-visual control room.
"And if you just go to the stadium right now," Browns president Alec Scheiner said, "you'll see that, in both cases, we're more than 50 percent done."
That's impressive progress, given that the harsh Northeast Ohio winter has cost workers about 14 days, according to Scheiner. Nevertheless, he said the renovations are "at or ahead" of schedule.
The rest of Phase One includes the installation of two state-of-the-art video boards, two new exterior escalators – giving the stadium a total of four and helping to make it easier for fans to navigate the entire building – and the addition of thousands of lower-level seats.
Scheiner said the renovations are expected to be completed before the first of the Browns' two home preseason games, which is likely to be played in the fourth week of the five-week preseason schedule.
"We're going to have a real, modern NFL stadium," Scheiner said. "We want our fans to feel like this isn't going to be this old, kind of boring stadium anymore. It's going to look different, it's going to feel different, it's going to sound different."
The most noticeable of those changes will, of course, be the new video and audio system.
The video boards will be significantly larger, offer higher-definition images, and be much closer to fans.
"I always tell people, think of, in your house, if you had a TV that was 15 years old and was 10 feet away from you," Scheiner said. "And I bought you a brand new HD TV and it was three times the size and I moved it five feet closer. That's going to be the difference.
"So each element of it matters. The size of it, the proximity of it, and the definition of it. All of those things will change the way you see our video."
While Phase One of the FirstEnergy Stadium renovation focuses on infrastructure change, Phase Two, which will be revealed in 2015, will focus on a more superficial changes geared toward enhancing the fan experience in club areas, suite areas, and graphics throughout the building. Scheiner said the Browns are working on the details of Phase Two.
The renovations are happening without any increase in ticket prices for the sixth year in a row. At least 10 other NFL teams have raised ticket prices, and that number could double in the near future.
The Browns' on-field struggles were no small consideration in the decision to keep ticket prices flat, Scheiner said. But he stressed that the investment in the stadium is commensurate with the investment the team will continue to make on the product it puts on the field.
"We'll spend money in free agency," Scheiner said. "One thing about (Browns owner) Jimmy (Haslam) is that he's been so consistent. We have the resources here to win and to make the fan experience better. There's no shortage of that. Not once has he ever been like, 'Let's not do that because we don't have the resources.'
"I think we're fortunate. If you look around the NFL, you'll see a lot of owners who say, 'I don't want to renovate until I can raise prices,' or, 'I don't want to sign this free agent if I didn't raise prices,' and Jimmy's not like that. It's an affordable ticket price and the value's gone way up with the renovated stadium. And we'll just earn it on the field. I think the idea here is, we know there have been a lot of changes, we know the history and the recent history.
"We've just got to earn it on the field. That's our sole focus."
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