CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Monday afternoon team president Alec Scheiner donned a Browns-themed construction helmet and showed off the progress of the renovations taking place at FirstEnergy Stadium.
204 workers were on site Monday and they are in a race to complete the first phase of the 2-year, $120 million project in time for the Browns preseason home opener Aug. 23 against St. Louis.
Despite the visible progress, there is a tremendous amount of work to complete over the next 10 weeks.
“We’re totally on time, on budget,” Scheiner said. “It’s been a really smooth process.
“I have no doubt we’ll get it done.”
The open corners in the lower bowl have been filled in with concrete risers for new seating sections and structural steel that will support extensions of the second deck in both end zones has been erected.
Even with the added seating closer to the field, the team is lowering capacity of the stadium from just under 72,000 to approximately 68,000. A curious move considering the interest in the team that’s been generated by Johnny Manziel.
“Typically in a stadium, those last 4,000 seats are the toughest to sell,” Scheiner said. “We’ll have a lot of demand for our seats, but we did last year.
“We took what we thought were probably the least valuable seats to our fans, turned those into a much better video experience and a lot more lower-level seats.”
A total of 14 new LED ribbon boards have already been installed along the facades of the mezzanine and upper decks as well as on the facing of the the second deck in each end zone.
The new video boards, which will be the fourth largest in the NFL this coming season, have already been built, assembled and tested off site. Portions of the boards will begin arriving from from Brookings, S.D. — home of Daktronics, which is manufacturing the video boards, displays and LED ribbon boards — on Tuesday and will be installed later this month.
The team is also in the process of installing a brand new 500,000-watt sound system to accompany the new boards.
“I have the luxury of going to every NFL stadium around the league, and one thing you notice when the video boards and audio systems work really well together, the impact is huge,” Scheiner said. “And when you’re in a stadium where it’s outdated, you almost feel like you’re missing something. I think, ultimately, we’re going to look back and say, ‘That was a huge upgrade for the fan experience.’
“I think it will be massive. I think people will feel a totally different way about coming to Browns games.”
The Browns are also building a pair of sponsor-driven sections above the Dawg Pound.
The “Ford Zone” which will be located in the northeast corner of the stadium will feature the latest model cars on display, a dedicated LED board as well as 10 HD TVs while the “Bud Light Balcony,” located in the southeast corner, will include a 360-degree bar, dedicated LED board and 15 HD TVs.
The team is also adding 2 escalators, improving gates as well as ADA seating as part of the first phase.
Next year work will begin on phase 2 which includes upgrading the stadium’s concourses, club and suite seating as well as concessions that will emphasize local flavor.
Scheiner declined to speculate as to how many years of life the 2-year project will add to the stadium, which opened in 1999 and enters it’s 16th year this fall.
“The stadium hadn’t really been touched in 15 years,” Scheiner said. “We’re really just trying to get it back up to par in the NFL. We don’t spend much time figuring out how many years we’re adding. We just want to make sure it’s a really good experience for our fans, and we think next year it will be.”
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