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Government


Cleveland City Council approves stadium up grade funding
City will pay $30 million of a $120 million plan to make the Brown's stadium more fan friendly
by WKSU's KEVIN NIEDERMIER


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Kevin Niedermier
 
Robin Adelman and Ed Sweeney protest the city's payment plan for the Browns stadium improvements.
Courtesy of KEVIN NIEDERMIER
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The Cleveland Browns are now ready to start making planned improvements to the team’s stadium after this season is over. Monday, Cleveland City Council approved the city’s share of funding for a $120 million make-over of the 14 year old facility. WKSU’s Kevin Niedermier reports on the somewhat controversial deal.

LISTEN: Support for and concerns about the stadium deal

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The city-owned stadium’s lease with the Browns requires Cleveland to help fund certain capital improvements as well as continuing maintenance.    The agreement was forged in 1996 as city leaders were working with the  NFL to land an expansion team to re-place the original Browns who left for Baltimore.  Last week, Mayor Frank Jackson struck the deal the up-grades which calls for the city to kick-in $2 million a year for 15 years.  That $30 million will help pay for new scoreboards and other enhancements to make the facility more fan friendly.  City council approved the measure 13-to-five with one member absent.  One of the no votes came from Councilman Jeff Johnson. He objects to the money coming out of the city’s general fund.

“It is a time when I believe we have to look at excuses that are given, not just by my collogues, but by the administration and many people, that we own this. So we have to pay for it, we’re the landlords and we don’t want it to crumble. We own the streets of Glenville and St. Clair-Superior, and they’re crumbling.”  

Johnson and other members also objected to not receiving details of the plan until the morning of the vote. They don’t believe there was enough time to properly examine the agreement. The deal passed as an emergency measure, meaning it did not get the usual readings at three separate council meetings. Backers say it was necessary to move quickly so the Browns could begin work immediately after this season ends to be ready for next season’s kick-off. The Jackson administration says there is enough money in the general fund to pay the costs without reducing services. And, that spreading the payments out over 15 years instead of paying it all up-front is a good deal for the city. Councilman Kevin Kelley voted yes, and says not passing the measure would have hurt the city.

“Arbitration, going to court, those are expensive things, they’re not pleasant, and I believe going to court or being forced into arbitration as the lease requires, we probably would have to pay more than the money contemplated in this agreement.”

Most council members acknowledge that putting money into the stadium now will save money in the future when the up-grades will cost more.After the vote, Brown’s CEO Joe Banner said he understands why some council members from impoverished wards are upset over the renovation payments. But, he says the franchise generates millions for the city, and the project will mean jobs for residents.  And Banner says the work will now move forward.                                                                                                                                                                         “From our end, we can now proceed with finalizing plans and starting to order equipment and hire subcontractors. We’ve basically finished a phase of the design work enough that we can meet with potential service providers, and we’re going to be full speed ahead now.”

On reason up-grading the stadium is necessary is because the 1996 lease agreement requires it to be among the top 15 in the league. Besides new, larger scoreboards, the plan includes a better sound system, escalators and seating improvements. Funding for these capital improvement is separate from the annual maintenance costs that are paid for mostly through Cuyahoga County’s sin tax which expires in 2015. County officials are expected to ask voters to renew it.

 

 

Listener Comments:

We really need the Browns to win more games
I know we can't win all the games but sure need the team to start wining think we need to make some changes.
Thanks


Posted by: J.MERDA (UNIONTOWN . OH) on November 26, 2013 12:11PM
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