SBD/September 18, 2013/Facilities

Cleveland Hires Consultant Firm To Study Browns' Projected Stadium Repair Costs

Work on FirstEnergy Stadium is slated to begin in January
The city of Cleveland will "pay a firm nearly $400,000 to determine what repairs must be made at FirstEnergy Stadium before the city considers" the Browns’ projected $120M "wish list of renovations," according to Leila Atassi of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. The Cleveland City Council on Monday "approved a contract with URS Corporation to conduct the capital repair audit between now and January, when work is slated to begin on the city-owned stadium." The city’s lease with the Browns "requires that the city conduct a repair audit every five years," but Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's Chief of Staff Ken Silliman said that the city "has not done so" since the lease was signed in '99. Silliman said that under new team Owner Jimmy Haslam III, the Browns are "expected to submit a formal proposal to the city in the next month, outlining improvements to the 'fan experience' at the facility, including a new scoreboard, audio equipment and physical changes that would allow fans to move more freely within the stadium." Silliman added that before the city "can get a grip on what kind of contribution it can make toward those luxury improvements, the comprehensive repair audit will identify the necessary upgrades that must take precedent." Atassi noted the city is "obligated to cover the expense of all emergency fixes or repairs of the stadium’s roof, foundation, structure or utilities, whether or not the money is within the repair budget." Silliman said that when it "comes to capital improvements -- defined as modifications and amenities that would rank the facility among the top NFL stadia -- the lease only requires the city to pick up the tab if the money is available" (CLEVELAND.com, 9/16).

IN THE DAWG HOUSE? In Cleveland, Mark Naymik notes the report will "help the city prioritize how it spends what little money is available for stadium repairs." Cleveland "needs this report to block any attempt by the Browns to pass to the city the costs of luxury improvements or upgrades that Haslam is eyeing." The city believes that it "only has to pay capital improvements if it has the money available after material expenses are covered." Cleveland "doesn't have the money and will never have the money." The report will be "critical to make the case that the repair fund is already spoken for." The city "needs to play rough to protect tax dollars" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 9/18).

A POPULAR OPINION: The PLAIN DEALER conducted an editorial board roundtable about who should pay for the renovations. Peter Krouse offered, "The city should pay the Browns what it is legally obligated to provide and nothing more. That's not a dig at the Browns or Haslam, both of whom are at a low point right now ... it's just that taxpayer money at this point could be more wisely spent." Sharon Broussard: "The city should be very careful for paying for anything over that amount. If the Browns want to improve the 'fan experience,' they should try winning." Thomas Suddes weighed in, "There's no justification for public subsidies to the owners of professional sports franchises." Elizabeth Sullivan: "The city has to draw the line -- and doing a repair audit to fairly map out legitimate repairs required under the lease, as opposed to the team's 'fan experience' wish list, is the way to start." Christopher Evans: "The idea that taxpayers have to keep ponying up millions of dollars to support the playground of millionaire athletes and billionaire owners is reprehensible" (CLEVELAND.com, 9/17).
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Facilities, Cleveland Browns, NFL

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