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Friday, November 22, 2013

Cleveland Agrees to Pay $2 Million Annually for 15 Years Toward FirstEnergy Stadium Improvements

Posted By on Fri, Nov 22, 2013 at 1:16 PM

Upgraded fan experience, per design renderings
  • Upgraded fan experience, per design renderings
The relationship between the city of Cleveland and the Cleveland Browns has always been a bit unwieldy. This week, Mayor Frank Jackson continued the trend and confirmed that the city will toss the football organization $2 million each year for 15 years for all sorts of neato stadium improvements. Like escalators and "fan experience" upgrades at the city-owned and clunkily-named FirstEnergy Stadium, Home of the Cleveland Browns.

Private funding and an NFL loan will take care of the $120-million project from the start, but that public money will then flow forth from the city's general fund.

Here's some choice Jackson input, via Tuesday's press conference:

“Now could we have hired another police officer as a result of this? Yes. Could we have swept a street? Yes. We could have done it, because it’s general fund money. But what I’m saying to you is that the level of service we provide today will not be in jeopardy.”

In retrospect, the Cleveland Browns "fan experience" may be a more worthwhile endeavor than hiring another police officer. But city services like street-sweeping, snow-plowing, or, say, mostly anything that accounts for more than simply treading municipal water would be a more significant investment in the city's future. Fan experience! Here's Councilman Brian Cummins with a clutch line:

“The Browns and the NFL talk about enhancing the fan experience. I’m concerned about funding the neighborhood experience.”

Inevitable as they are, the social and political implications seem to be simply rolled into another awkward deal cut with ultra-wealthy team owner Jimmy Haslam III. That deal includes extra latitude for the team's expenditures of the "sin tax" (levied on purchases of alcohol and tobacco products). Unsurprisingly, Haslam and team CEO Joe Banner have publicly expressed a desire to see that tax extended past its 2015 expiration date. Jackson has sided with them; the extension is imminent.

Half of the current sin tax pool of money ($12 million of the $24 million) is slated for expenses in 2016, though the team is mum on what that entails.

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