SBD/January 16, 2013/Facilities

Changes For Browns Keep Coming As Franchise Introduces FirstEnergy Stadium

Naming rights is part of the "culture change" Haslam (l) wants to make with Browns
The Browns' season of "significant change continued Tuesday as the franchise officially announced the name of its lakefront venue is now 'FirstEnergy Stadium, Home of the Cleveland Browns,'" according to Reed & Funk of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. While it "doesn't exactly roll from the tongue, it creates another revenue stream," one that Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam III "vowed will be used to help the Browns become more competitive." The franchise and Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. "did not divulge the terms of their agreement for the stadium-naming rights." Haslam said that it is "a 'long-term' deal and that the decision not to disclose the monetary amount is in keeping with the wishes of the power company." The deal must be "approved by the Cleveland City Council as the city owns the stadium." The city council, which has "30 days to approve the agreement, probably will hear from the public about the new name, partly because fans have been paying seat licensing" since the stadium opened in '99. All Cuyahoga County residents have been "paying a 'sin tax' to help finance the debt on it." Still, the deal should "sail through an approval vote." The deal would "not only change the name of the $300 million building but also would give FirstEnergy exclusive rights in a wide range of joint marketing, from logos on tickets to television, newspaper and Internet advertising." The companies intend to "launch a FirstEnergy Stadium website in the near future and plan other joint marketing efforts, including philanthropic campaigns." A new logo has been "designed for the partnership and will be featured in large signs at the top of stadium -- signs big enough to be seen by passing traffic and probably large enough to be seen from the Goodyear blimp" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/16). Haslam said that negotiations "started late in the summer and were wrapped up by the end of the year" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 1/16).

EXTREME MAKEOVER: In Akron, Nate Ulrich notes selling naming rights for Cleveland Browns Stadium is "only the beginning of the culture change the organization will experience" with Haslam and his new regime in charge. Haslam and CEO Joe Banner "discussed some plans they hope to implement in the not-too-distant future." In addition to the stadium, the team’s "headquarters and its uniforms could be in store for makeovers." Haslam said that three or four of the "top architects in the country will meet with Banner and new team President Alec Scheiner in the next 30 days to discuss potential stadium enhancements." New scoreboards, sound systems and "even a roof are possibilities that will be explored for the lakefront stadium." Banner said that Browns officials already have "met with architects about possibly expanding the team’s headquarters and practice facility that opened in 1991 in Berea." Several team employees who "work in sales, marketing and other departments have offices in the stadium, but Banner said he wants the headquarters to be able to house the entire organization." Haslam said that the Browns "also are preparing to modify their uniforms." He said, "It’s a two-year process in the NFL. We’ve notified the NFL we would like to take a look at our uniforms. So if we do make any changes, it will be for the 2014 season." Ulrich notes Haslam has learned he "must strike the right balance between making changes and maintaining tradition to keep Browns fans -- and his customers -- happy." That is why he "vowed not to mess with the team’s orange, logo-less helmets" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 1/16).

ZEROING IN: Banner yesterday said that the Browns are "wrapping up their first wave of general manager interviews and have identified a front-runner." But in Cleveland, Mary Kay Cabot noted just like "with the coaching search, the franchise will remain mum until it has its man under contract and ready for his closeup." Banner declined to comment on whether Chiefs Pro Personnel Dir Ray Farmer "is his front-runner for the job." A source said that Farmer would "leave the Chiefs for a larger role with a club." Banner said that the Browns job "will most likely carry the title of general manager as opposed to director of player personnel" (CLEVELAND.com, 1/15).
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