CLEVELAND--The upgrades to FirstEnergy Stadium were detailed for the first time on Tuesday, as the Cleveland Browns Chief Executive Officer, Joe Banner, addressed a crowd at the 2013 MidTown Cleveland, Inc. annual meeting.
“I think it’s important with the investments that were made in these facilities to keep them in good condition, to keep them as good showcases, to keep them as comfortable and safe environments and as they get older, that takes more to do,” said Banner to a crowd at the InterContinental Hotel.
The stadium was built in 1999 at a cost of $290 million and, according to Banner, needs many upgrades and improvements. Shortly after buying the team last year, Jimmy Haslam vowed to make upgrades including a possible dome which was taken off the table.
“I mean, we’re kinda believers in - you know - football is an outdoor game that includes the elements and there’s a toughness to it and you're playing on the same field,” said Banner. “A dome is an extremely expensive thing to do so even if you didn't bring the belief that I do about it's an outdoor sport and just deal with it, it would be a big question mark of whether that would be the best use of those funds, whether it was public or private money.”
Starting in January of 2014 and continuing in January of 2015, the Browns will add fresh coats of paint to the interior of the building while making improvements to the concession stands. They plan to improve the fan experience by reconfiguring the seating in the lower portion of the stadium.
The stadium, according to Banner, also needs a new scoreboard because the parts necessary to fix the current scoreboard won’t be manufactured for much longer.
Banner also talked about the need to improve the sound system in the stadium.
“If the potential quality of a stadium sound system is one to 10, what you have right now is a two,” said Banner, who recently met with architects and consultants about the project. “They said based on some of the configuration issues, the best you can probably get is about a seven to a seven-and-a-half, based on the configuration of the stadium you can't build a 10 here. So, the system is just really inadequate whether it relates to a game-day experience or if there was ever a safety issue.”
The construction of the stadium on the late-90s was funded, in part, by the city of Cleveland and a ‘sin tax' on county residents. Banner is hopeful voters support the renewal of the tax if it is on the ballot, as expected, for a renewal next year.
Banner, who was hired by Haslam, and moved to Cleveland from Philadelphia, admits that his biggest surprise since taking the job was the passion of the fans which he said he underestimated.