Should they stay there long term, the Cleveland Browns would want new development to surround FirstEnergy Stadium and connect its waterfront site to downtown Cleveland.
FirstEnergy Stadium originally opened in 1999, and the Browns have made some renovations to the facility over the years. The Browns’ current lease agreement runs through the 2028 season, and there have been signs that the organization is considering its long-term stadium options.
One point of emphasis for the Browns is development, as the team wants a facility surrounded by more amenities that can serve as pre or post-game destinations for fans. Development of that type has popped up in downtown Cleveland, but it has not necessarily extended to the waterfront site of FirstEnergy Stadium.
Going forward, Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam would like to see that change. Should the club commit to FirstEnergy Stadium for the long haul and make plans to modernize the facility, the Haslams hope it will spur new development and create better cohesion with downtown Cleveland. More from 92.3 The Fan:
“I think it makes sense to stay there, but it really does depend on what the community wants,” Dee Haslam said Saturday. “If they want to open the waterfront, they don’t want the stadium there, then we have to come up with another solution.”
Aside from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Great Likes Science Center and FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland’s lakefront is mostly consumed by the Port of Cleveland and Burke Lakefront airport – both take up significant, yet valuable, real estate.
The Haslams find themselves asking a few critical questions.
Do the Browns continue to play in the existing stadium beyond the current lease? How can the economic impact of the stadium be maximized from a development perspective? Should they just continue to modernize the stadium in the future or do they need to build a new one in a new location? If so, where and who will pay for it?
“I think they do want [the stadium] there,” Dee Haslam said. “It’s just a matter of connecting downtown to the waterfront. I think it’s really important. So I think that’s what everybody’s focused on.”
There has been a steady influx of teams around the NFL of late that are openly expressing interest in creating more development around their stadiums. The Denver Broncos are exploring development for the area surrounding Broncos Stadium at Mile High, the Jacksonville Jaguars unveiled ambitious plans this spring for downtown Jacksonville development near TIAA Bank Field, and new Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper recently discussed a similar idea for land near Bank of America Stadium. That could potentially leave the Browns with some examples to emulate down the road, should they ultimately decide that a renovated FirstEnergy Stadium surrounded by new development is their best long-term facility option.