Browns looking to buy land as potential future site for new stadium as talks with Cleveland continue
CLEVELAND (AP) — Other than a few years after they moved to Baltimore, the Cleveland Browns have always played their games on the shores of Lake Erie.
That could change in the future.
The team is reportedly nearing a deal to buy 176 acres in a suburb south of Cleveland, a site that could be used to build a new stadium — maybe a domed one — if the Browns are unable to work out an agreement with the city after their lease expires in 2028.
The Browns have been in talks about renovating their lakefront stadium, which opened in 1999 after the NFL awarded Cleveland an expansion franchise.
That 60,000-plus-seat stadium needs major renovations and owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam have expressed interest in developing the area around the current structure.
The team has made no firm plans about moving from its downtown home, but the Browns, who have played on essentially the same plot of land since their founding in 1946, have been exploring other options.
On Thursday, the team released a statement after a report by sports blog NEOtrans said the Browns are nearing a deal to buy property near Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, just miles from the team's headquarters in Berea, Ohio.
“We’ve been clear on how complex future stadium planning can be,” Browns/Haslam Sports Group spokesperson Peter John-Baptiste said Thursday in a statement. “One certainty is our commitment to greatly improving our fan experience while also creating a transformative and lasting impact to benefit all of Northeast Ohio. We understand the magnitude of opportunity with a stadium project intent on driving more large-scale events to our region and are methodically looking at every possibility.”
Any possible move is a touchy subject with Cleveland fans. It was former owner Art Modell's squabble with the city over funding for a new stadium that led to him taking the franchise to Baltimore after the 1995 season.
The Haslams, who also own the MLS Columbus Crew and have minority ownership of the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks, have long said they are committed to keeping their football franchise in Northeast Ohio.
The team expressed its appreciation in working with Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb and officials.
“At the same time, as part of our comprehensive planning efforts, we are also studying other potential stadium options in Northeast Ohio at various additional sites,” the Browns said.
“There is still plenty of work to do and diligence to process before a long-term stadium solution is determined and will share further updates at the appropriate time.”
City of Cleveland chief of staff Bradford Davy said in a lengthy statement that “keeping the Browns at home on the downtown lakefront is a priority for Mayor Bibb and city leadership.”
Davy said Cleveland has developed a comprehensive package that protects taxpayers while addressing needs outlined by the Browns, and that the city views the downtown stadium as integral in future enhancement of the lakefront.
Access to Cleveland's current stadium is also a major issue. The construction of a potential pedestrian bridge to the lakefront and nearby Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as well as a massive lakefront development project have been delayed, entangled by political maneuvering and budgetary issues.
There is a vocal segment of Browns fans who have been pushing for a new domed stadium, arguing that it could help the city attract major events such as a Super Bowl, Final Fours and major concerts.
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