Reporting Daryl Ruiter
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Browns secured a major piece of funding to help pay for a facelift for FirstEnergy Stadium on Tuesday.
The Browns were awarded $62.5 million from the NFL for “technological improvements” at the NFL’s owners meetings being held in Washington D.C.
The Washington Redskins also received $27 million in funding for FedEx Field which will be diverted from Washington’s contributions to the league’s revenue sharing pool.
Video boards, sound system and WiFi all fall under this category and are 3 of many areas the Browns are focused on upgrading or replacing at the 15-year old stadium which opened in 1999.
The Browns hired Los Angeles-based architecture firm Gensler to design the renovation of FirstEnergy Stadium and New York-based Turner Construction Co. as the general contractor in July for the 2-year project slated to begin in January.
The team is finalizing their plans for the stadium and are expected to make them public in the coming weeks.
While the actual scope and price tag of the project remains fluid, it’s expected to cost between $120-135 million and include scoreboard and sound system replacement as well as some reconfiguration of the seating bowl and concourse upgrades.
With nearly 50 percent of the funding for the project – which will be completed in 2 phases – now secure from the league, the Browns are expected to move forward with help from the Cavaliers and Indians to pursue an extension of the ‘sin tax’ next May.
The ‘sin tax’ on tobacco and alcohol was originally approved by Cuyahoga County voters in 1990 to fund the Gateway project, which is now Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena. A 10-year extension was approved in 1995 to help fund the construction of FirstEnergy Stadium.
The tax expires in 2015 and the city as well as county are faced with tight budgets meaning paying for upkeep and upgrades for the 3 facilities using general funds is not feasible.
Although the Indians and Cavaliers have paid for numerous improvements to the ballpark and arena out of pocket, both facilities still need work. Privately, both teams would like to see improvements to the mechanical systems as well as the seating bowls which are costly to make.
FirstEnergy Stadium cost approximately $283 million to build – not including financing costs. The NFL kicked in approximately $71 million for the project while the state, county and city picked up the remainder of the tab.
Browns CEO Joe Banner spearheaded the effort in Philadelphia to get Lincoln Financial Field built while team president Alec Scheiner worked on the AT&T Stadium project for the Dallas Cowboys.
In January, the Browns sold naming rights for the stadium to Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. for $102 million over 17 years and the team keeps 100 percent of that revenue under terms of the lease, which runs through 2028.
The Browns aren’t the only team that is working on a stadium project.
The Buffalo Bills unveiled plans for a $130 million facelift for Ralph Wilson Stadium earlier this week that include new high-definition video boards, WiFi, lounges, expanded concourses and main stadium entrance featuring a Bills team shop.
The Philadelphia Eagles are also in the midst of a $125 million makeover for Lincoln Financial Field, which opened in 2003, to be completed in time for their 2014 opener.
New NFL only stadiums are set to open in San Francisco (2014), Minneapolis (2016) and Atlanta (2017).
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