The Cleveland Browns have launched a feasibility study for “significant stadium renovation” for FirstEnergy Stadium, per a team statement released Monday. The statement was in response to a NEOtrans report that the franchise is seeking a new $1 billion stadium as part of a lakefront redevelopment project in the city.
“As we have consistently communicated, along with the City of Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Partnership and other permanent local organizations, we have been immersed in discussing ways to best approach the lakefront’s future and the stadium naturally is a critical piece to the longterm execution of such a project,” Peter John-Baptiste, senior vice president of communications for the Browns and Haslam Sports Group, said in a statement (via The Athletic). “Contrary to recent speculation, a recent feasibility study we launched does not contemplate a new stadium or showcase new stadium sites. A significant stadium renovation at our current site is the premise of the study as well as a focus on how to provide accessibility to the lakefront, drive density and create 365-destination major development opportunities that would include new public parks, retail, office, experimental and residential spaces.
“The vision, as many in our community have already seen, is centered on an extensive land bridge. As we are just beginning the study, we certainly do not have enough information to determine the cost of renovating the stadium or what the aesthetics of such a renovation would entail. We believe our study will help answer these questions and should be completed in 2023.”
Per NEOtrans, Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam want a covered stadium and are willing to move downtown to get the new building. The stadium would be publicly funded.
FirstEnergy Stadium was completed when the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999 after a three-year hiatus from the league — when the original Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Baltimore Ravens. The stadium cost $283 million to complete and is the 12th-oldest stadium in the NFL.
The last time the Browns faced a challenge of a new stadium in 1995, former owner Art Modell stunned the NFL world by relocating the long-standing franchise to football-craved Baltimore — who lost the Colts 12-years earlier in 1983. City attorney Fred Nance Cleveland mayor Mike White had been working with Modell on a $175 million renovation on the aging Municipal Stadium, but Modell stalled talks. Modell didn’t want to negotiate until after the 1995 season, yet announced in November of that year he was relocating the franchise.
Modell won the rights to move the team to Baltimore, and the city succeeded to keep the franchise’s history, name and colors in Cleveland. The NFL promised the Browns a new team in three years — and the “new” Browns formed in 1999.