Sin Tax Vital for FirstEnergy Stadium

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CLEVELAND — The effects of the Trent Richardson trade and uncertainty surrounding the Browns franchise has Cleveland City Council worried.

The city is worried that fans might not support a vote to extend the tax that pays for improvements at FirstEnergy Stadium.

“When I first heard about the trade, at first I didn’t believe it. Then, the reality set it,” said Ward 11 Councilman Mike Polensek.

The reality is that we are going to try and market at some point, an approval for an extension of the sin tax improvements at FirstEnergy Stadium and we need to have a winning football team to convince voters that it’s worth their investment,” said Polensek.

According to Polensek, years ago, the city took out a lease on the stadium, but only financed about 15 years of it.

That’s where the tax on alcohol and cigarettes came in. However, it expires in 2015.

“Unless the sin tax is renewed, the city of Cleveland, the people of Cleveland are on the dime,” said Polensek.

About $134 million dollars is still owed on the facility.

So, could the recent Browns move put the tax in jeopardy?

“2015 is D Day. If there’s nothing in place by 2015, we’re on the nut for about $13 million a year, minimum. The administration would have to make cuts,” said Polensek.

Polensek says the Browns are promising multiple repairs to the stadium.

The city of Cleveland hired a consulting company Monday that will decide which of those repairs are structural, which are paid by the city of Cleveland, which are cosmetic, and which should be paid for by the owner, Jimmy Haslam.

Meantime, the Browns released a statement regarding stadium repairs saying, “in its 15th season, the stadium is in obvious need of significant maintenance, similar to any sports venue of comparative age. We are working through our next steps and expect to have a more detailed approach soon.”

But despite any team effort between the city and the Browns, in the end, it’s up to the voters to decide.

“I absolutely will not vote yes. How can you tax the people for a business that’s not even performing,” said one fan.

“I’m paying taxes in Cleveland anyway for it to continue to look nice. So, I’d support it,” said another fan.

According to the city, if approved, the vote would most likely go on the May ballot.