At just 15 years old, the home of the Cleveland Browns is about to get a facelift.
The Browns announced via a Wednesday press conference that massive and much-needed changes will soon be coming to FirstEnergy Stadium. This project is set to take place over 2014 and 2015. In total, the upgrades will cost roughly $120 million. Ticket prices will not be “directly impacted” because of this undertaking.
What immediately sticks out in drawings and in videos posted on the team's official website are the massive scoreboards that will be at both ends of the field. Those new scoreboards are three times the size of the scoreboards that are currently at FirstEnergy Stadium, and they will be similar to what is found inside venues such as MetLife Stadium and Reliant Stadium.
The other big change that will impact fans is that the stadium capacity will be reduced from 71,000 to 68,000. Part of that will include some upper bowl seats being relocated to the lower bowl of the stadium. This could result in some season ticket holders having their seats moved or possibly even eliminated. It is believed that the franchise will handle such situations on a person-by-person basis.
A real lack of cell phone service while inside FirstEnergy for Browns games has been a big complaint for fans and journalists alike since the stadium opened for business in 1999. That isn't a problem that is unique to Cleveland. I've experienced similar outages at MetLife Stadium, Red Bull Arena and Beaver Stadium during sporting events. This is something the team hopes to address over the next two years. Public Wi-Fi may also be coming to FirstEnergy in the near future.
Plenty of common sense improvements are also part of the renovation. Upgrades in concessions and an increase in escalators are on their way to FirstEnergy. The stadium's audio system, one that is very outdated, will see dramatic improvements when it comes to clarity and noise. Additional LED video boards will also be installed.
The timing of this announcement offered a reminder that those running the organization are very smart businessmen. There is an undeniable buzz in and around the Cleveland community regarding the Browns, who are preparing to face off with the Cincinnati Bengals in what will be the biggest football game Cleveland has played in several years. The Browns trail the first place Bengals in the AFC North standings by two games in the win column.
What was, when it opened, known as Cleveland Browns Stadium was a fine place to watch a football game back in '99. Truth be told, fans would have loved the idea of watching that expansion team play in the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium as long as it meant the Browns being back in the NFL.
That, of course, is no longer the case. Attending NFL games is about much more than what occurs on the field. That's just the way it is. Going to games is largely about entertainment, and the NFL is a rather expensive form of entertainment when taken in at stadiums. The football that is played is, on its own, no longer enough.
All of the upgrades that are to be made to FirstEnergy will only mean so much, of course, if the team doesn't start competing on a yearly basis. The Browns are, at 4-5, very much so in the playoff hunt when it comes to the AFC North and Wild Card races. Being close to average isn't going to cut it for what has been arguably the most tortured fan base in North American professional sports.
Cleveland football fans are yearning for a winner.
For more: The project website