Haslams feel it “makes sense” to keep Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium

Connecting waterfront to downtown, pursuing development is a priority

Daryl Ruiter
July 28, 2018 - 8:16 pm
General view of FirstEnergy Stadium and downtown Cleveland before the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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Berea, OH (92.3 The Fan) – Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam would like to see the Cleveland Browns remain at FirstEnergy Stadium.

They'd also like to see more development around it too.

With 10 years left on the existing lease that expires after the 2028 season and coming off a $125 million renovation that included new scoreboards and audio system, renovated suites and clubs, additional lower bowl seating and additional decks added to the end zones, it seems preposterous to think about replacing the now 20-year-old facility.

But a new stadium is not necessarily the end game for the Haslams, who are looking at the bigger picture of future development on Cleveland’s underutilized waterfront where the stadium is located.

"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."

The Haslam’s have also tried to add more dates to the stadium’s calendar than simply Browns games.

Since the renovation FirstEnergy Stadium has hosted several large concert tours including U2, Taylor Swift, Jay Z and Beyoncé in addition to high school football games and soccer matches.

Unlike the Gateway district that surrounds Progressive Field and Quicken Loans arena, there is no such development around First Energy Stadium leaving fans to congregate in parking lots before games for tailgating with West 6th street as the closest option for bars and restaurants.

That is why the Haslam’s are thinking about the bigger picture of city planning well in advance of the expiration of the current lease.

"We're continuing that process,” Dee Haslam said. “There hasn't been a lot of action in the last month or so, but I think in the next weeks we have some conversations with downtown leaders on kind of the bridge that's connecting the city to the waterfront. I think that's the first issue that we're trying to address -- the bridge everybody's talking about.

“That's where our focus is right now, and then we'll continue to work with the leadership, find out what the vision for the community is and be very transparent about it.”