Cleveland City Council Approves Financing for FirstEnergy Stadium Modernization Project

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Cleveland Browns fans, as their team recently lost to two long-time rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the 2013 NFL regular season. But the Cleveland team did manage to score one important victory. On Monday, November 25, the Cleveland City Council has approved a financing plan for the FirstEnergy Stadium modernization project.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Cleveland Browns fans, as their team recently lost to two longtime rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the 2013 NFL regular season. But the Cleveland team did manage to score one important victory. On Nov. 25, the Cleveland City Council approved a financing plan to modernize FirstEnergy Stadium.

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam announced the project earlier in the month, just days before the important game against the Cincinnati Bengals. At a cost of $120 million, the project is expected to improve the fan experience and also help the team win as many games as possible. It will be carried out in two phases, in 2014 and 2015.

During the first phase, the Browns will install two new video boards, triple the size of the current boards, and add new LED video boards and a new audio system. The seating capacity of the 15-year-old stadium will be reduced from 71,000 to 68,000, but the lower bowl will be reconfigured to include more seats closer to the field and provide better views of the game. New escalators will be installed in both the north and south end zones. In 2015, the Browns will upgrade the general concession areas as well as the club seats and suites. Work is scheduled  to start after the final home game of the 2013 regular season.

To fund the project, the Browns will use a $62 million loan from the NFL, the money from the city and a bank loan to cover the remainder. The city, which owns the stadium, will provide $2 million in funding each year for the next 15 years. The $30 million represents a present-day value of $22 million.

According to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, the financing was approved after a four-hour debate, with 13 votes in favor and five against. The ordinance needed at least 12 votes to pass. The council members were divided and several of them spoke out against the project, saying that the money could be put to better use improving the city’s neighborhoods.

Mayor Frank Jackson expressed his gratitude for the council’s vote and for  Jimmy Haslam’s investment in the stadium, saying that “this type of private investment in our city is essential to our continued success.”

“We respect the process we went through with City Council and Mayor Jackson and appreciate their support for this project. We look forward to moving ahead with the renovation of FirstEnergy Stadium. We know it will positively impact our fans’ experience, and our community will be proud to showcase the transformed home of the Browns for the rest of the country,” Jimmy Haslam said in a statement for the press.

Photo credits: http://www.firstenergystadiumproject.com