The Cleveland Browns’ proposed stadium improvements are already a hot topic among Cleveland Browns fans and Clevelanders with a stake in government money. There’s a lot of fan-on-fan bickering going on already and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing until some form of resolution is reached and a deal is announced. While I like the Cleveland Browns’ plan to refurbish the stadium – and even before I know what the Browns are asking for in terms of financial contribution from the city – I’m uneasy with the thought of having the city pay for stadium improvements. Let me explain why. I was talking this over with a friend of mine and after we talked about it and agreed on our feelings, he put it perfectly. “We already paid the ransom, but we never got the hostages back.”
None of what I’m saying is the current Cleveland Browns’ fault. Jimmy Haslam, Joe Banner and Alec Scheiner are not to blame in the slightest for anything that I’m going to talk about here. The fact is though, that this stadium became obsolete1 without ever having delivered during its initial tenure. The stadium has been bland and the product on the field has probably been even worse. Even as Atlanta is up in arms about replacing Turner Field by moving the team to the suburbs, how many playoff series has that stadium hosted? The Browns have played one playoff game since returning and as we all know they didn’t play it in Cleveland as they lost to the Steelers 36-33 giving up 22 fourth-quarter points.
And without sounding all “woe is me” – because that’s not what this is about – I was trying to figure out what had me so uneasy about the prospect of paying more money for a stadium and that’s what it came down to.
I believe the Cleveland Browns are trending in the right direction right now, but it seems crazy that they’ve earned the kind of goodwill that goes along with extreme fan support for capital investment in a stadium that hasn’t been short on profits for the Lerner family. Those same profits were analyzed exhaustively as a purchase price was determined and agreed upon by Jimmy Haslam.
Of course there are more technical ways to look at this and I’m sure a great many2 attorneys will do just that before it’s all said and done. There’s a lease that will be interpreted and over-interpreted and ultimately parsed by many legal minds before an agreement or resolution is finalized. So this isn’t about trying to analyze it from that standpoint.
This is about trying to explain to the Cleveland Browns why even common sense improvements to the stadium are a tough sell for Cleveland Browns fans. It’s obviously not all bad news for Banner and the Browns. Tickets are a surprisingly easy sell, thankfully for them. Until such time as they’re able to sell Browns fans playoff tickets, it sure would be nice if the Cleveland Browns would continue to invest their own profits back in the team and facilities that make so very much money for them.
And let me finish with this. Feel free to ask for a whole new building after you win a Super Bowl. Hell, ask for two. Maybe one for the east side and one for the west side? We’ll probably say yes.