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The View From Pluto: Why Are Cities Willing to Put Up Millions For a Few Weeks of the NFL's Time?

Joelle Harms

The Cleveland Browns are ready to start tapping into a new fan base. The team is finalizing a deal to bring part of its training camp to Columbus by 2018. It’s a plan that’s been in the works for years, and includes keeping one week of the roughly five-week camp at its headquarters in Berea.

WKSU commentator Terry Pluto says the plan would involve building new facilities at Tuttle Park near Ohio State University.

"I think the Browns would like to be in the Columbus market," Pluto says. "It's at least going to cost $15 million to do this deal. The Browns would pay $5 million and Franklin County and city of Columbus will come up with the other $10 million.

Their rationale is, there's an old community center at Tuttle Park, about 20,000 sq. ft. This thing is going to either be demolished or totally redone and be much bigger. They're going to have all kind of fields that they could use for football and soccer for youth sports, along with being a Browns field house.

But the truthful question is, if the Browns were not coming, would they still kick in the $10 million-plus to redo Tuttle Park? if the answer is 'yes', then this makes a lot of sense for Columbus. If the answer is 'no', then basically you're just throwing a lot of money at an NFL team to come train there for about five weeks out of the year."

Let Columbus romance the Browns
"I'm always amazed when these municipalities want to throw money at these teams for something like this, but they do. There are 13 teams out of 32 teams in the NFL that train elsewhere and there are more and more teams that want to do this. Coaches say it's a way to bond together. I just don't see it.

This is on Columbus. Clearly they're romancing the Browns. They want to pay this money for the Browns to go and train down there, go ahead. To me, it just seems hard to justify it. 

The tough thing for Columbus is they have the Blue Jackets of the NHL. But they're not going to get a baseball team because of the Reds and the Indians, and they're not going to get an NFL team because the Bengals are in Cincinnati and the Browns are in Cleveland."

A paranoid fan base
Pluto says there are some fans who are concerned that the Browns could move their entire team to Columbus. 

"This is an abused family of sports fans here. The team did move once and now some fans here are worried. I got an email from a fan who said, 'You know Columbus would love to have the Browns play there Sunday after Ohio State plays Saturday at the Shoe with 100,000 seats.' But I'm sure the Cincinnati Bengals would fight that because they wouldn't want a team that close.

I got an email from a guy named Matt who said it's a slap in the face to fans here. The team's feeling is that by 2018 maybe they will be better. I guess at this point, this is owners being owners and cities being cities who are attracted to a big-league franchise even if it's just watch them practice."

Playing overseas
Columbus isn't the only move the team is making. The NFL announced Tuesday that they'll be playing the Minnesota Vikings next season in London

"So if you're a Browns fan you're thinking, 'Oh great, the team's playing in London next year and then I have to go Columbus in 2018."

Meanwhile, the Browns just passed the one-year mark since their last win. And, with three games left in the season, Pluto remains optimistic they'll get one win. 

Amanda Rabinowitz is the host of “All Things Considered” on Ideastream Public Media.