SBJ/Oct. 7-13, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Renovation funds for Browns, Redskins slated for NFL owners vote

NFL owners are scheduled to vote Tuesday to allocate league funds to help pay for stadium renovations for the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns, sources said, the latest teams with venues built in the 1990s seeking to upgrade.

The moves emerge as the NFL has indicated that several teams in cold-weather cities are considering bids for the 2019 Super Bowl. The first outdoor cold-weather Super Bowl occurs in New York in February, and the success or failure of that event could open the floodgates to similar bids — or stifle any future efforts.

The Super Bowl aside, many teams with venues built in the 1990s or shortly thereafter have found their buildings now in need of upgrades to keep up with more modern venues, which feature larger scoreboards and greater Wi-Fi capabilities. The Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles, for example, have upgraded their stadiums or are in the process of doing so.

The Browns’ and Redskins’ renovation plans are on the agenda for this week’s NFL owners meetings in Washington, D.C.

The Browns are seeking $62 million from the league’s stadium fund for renovations of FirstEnergy Stadium. That means the project will cost around $124 million under NFL stadium-funding formulas that allow teams to seek league-based financing for about half of a renovation cost.

The project will unfold in two stages, a key source said, with the first occurring between January and August of next year and the second following the 2014 season. Plans call for installing new video boards, upgrading Wi-Fi, and potentially increasing lower-level capacity while decreasing upper-level capacity

The team declined to comment. Last month, the Browns issued a joint statement with the city of Cleveland, which owns the stadium, saying, “We have established a positive relationship, we are working together, and we have had open dialogue regarding the necessary stadium repairs. In its 15th season, the stadium is in obvious need of significant maintenance, similar to any sports venue of comparative age. We are working through our next steps.”

Redskins officials also declined to comment. The scope of the team’s plans for FedEx Field, which opened 16 years ago, could not be determined.

The Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium is also on the agenda for the owners, who in March approved $200 million of funding for that team’s project. Since then, the state of Minnesota has launched an investigation into whether the team’s owners, the Wilfs, can afford to pay their share in the wake of a negative court ruling in New Jersey against the family. The state concluded they could.

Additionally, owners will get an update on Sunday Ticket talks. The league is in renewal discussions with DirecTV regarding the out-of-market games package. The current contract runs through the 2014 season.

Owners also will get updates on the NFL’s London regular-season games, the New York Super Bowl, player health and safety issues, and other league business and competition matters.

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