SBD/November 20, 2013/Facilities

Browns, City Agree On Financing Plan For Upgrades To FirstEnergy Stadium

New video boards at the FirstEnergy Stadium will be nearly three times bigger
Cleveland taxpayers "will be kicking in" $2M in each of the next 15 years toward the $120M in upgrades at FirstEnergy Stadium "under a tentative agreement" reached yesterday between the city and the Browns, according to a front-page piece by Mark Naymik of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. The Cleveland City Council will "consider legislation to confirm the deal Monday." The "true cost of the city's contribution" is estimated at $22M, not $30M, because the money is "being committed at the present-day value of the dollar." The city will give the Browns "more input on how to spend" about $12M of the $24M already in the stadium's "existing capital improvement fund set by the stadium lease and fed by the existing Cuyahoga County tax on alcohol and cigarette sales, known as a sin tax." The Browns in exchange will "allow the city to reduce its payments to the capital repairs fund in the final years of the lease." Browns CEO Joe Banner and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said that they would "support a campaign to extend the sin tax," which expires in '15. Naymik writes the deal "avoids a drawn out and potentially costly legal battle over the stadium lease, which spells out repairs and improvements that must be made by the city and the team." Asked how he would characterize Jackson as a negotiator, Banner said, "He kicked our ass" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 11/20). In Akron, Nate Ulrich notes the Browns during the first year of the proposed upgrades would "install two new video boards nearly triple the size of the boards currently in each end zone, moving them closer to the fans." The project in '14 also would "increase the lower bowl's seating capacity while improving sightlines" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 11/20).

CITY GOT OFF EASY?
 In Cleveland, Terry Pluto notes the Browns "plan to borrow the entire amount" needed for the $120M in upgrades, with a $60M loan from the NFL and another $60M in "loans from 'private sources.'" But they will "receive a lot of help from the city -- thanks to the terms of the stadium lease" inherited by Jackson. The city had "huge obligations to the Browns over the next 12 years," set to pay close to $40M into the stadium through '25. The new deal "could have been much worse for the city" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 11/20).
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