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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Chiefs and Browns Could Break Tradition, Leave Longtime Homes

  • The two-time defending Super Bowl champions lay down a renewed threat.
  • The Browns’ owners weigh a potential move to the suburbs.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Could two of the NFL’s most iconic locales—Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium and the Cleveland lakefront—be abandoned in search of other stadium sites? That’s the potential situation now developing as both the Chiefs and Browns look to solidify their venue futures.

The Chiefs have been at Arrowhead Stadium (above) since 1972, and the Browns have played on the shore of Lake Erie since ’46, with the exception of the three years in the ’90s between the two versions of the franchise. But amid continued uncertainty in both cities regarding planned stadium projects, the Chiefs and Browns are increasingly evaluating other options. 

The two-time defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs are on an April 2 ballot in Jackson County, Missouri, along with MLB’s neighboring Royals (above, background). The pair of teams are seeking to implement a ⅜-cent sales tax for 40 years, with that money targeted toward a planned new Royals ballpark and renovations to Arrowhead Stadium. That measure reached a ballot after the county legislature overrode a veto from county executive Frank White.

But White has continued to speak out against the possible tax extension, recently saying “taxpayers are being asked to pay more than $2 billion over 40 years to private businesses that … have not been transparent with their projects or plans.” That prompted the teams’ most overt threat to look at other locales should the vote fail, amplifying other similar comments made recently. 

“If April 2 results in a ‘no’ vote for the Chiefs and Royals, we will explore all options for where we will play come 2031,” the teams said in an open letter to the Jackson County legislature that was particularly critical of White. 

Given how strong a performer the Chiefs particularly are, both on and off the field, it’s seemingly unthinkable the team would leave the Kansas City area altogether. As such, it’s likely that initial fallback options could include nearby jurisdictions such as Clay County, Missouri—where the Royals previously considered building—or Johnson County, Kansas. 

Who Is Frank White?

Some baseball fans will recognize this name, as the Jackson County executive moved into politics a decade ago after a previous career in MLB. He earned a place in the Royals’ hall of fame as a star second baseman and fixture on the 1985 World Series champion team and six other division-winning squads. White also had prior stints as a Royals coach, front office executive, and broadcaster. 

But White has been estranged from the Royals for many years, with bad feelings first developing in the early 2000s following a cut of his salary, being passed over for the team’s managerial job, and then when he was pushed out of the team’s broadcast booth, reportedly due to his harsh criticism of poor-performing Royals teams. 

A New Dawg Pound?

Last year, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said he was committed to staying in downtown Cleveland and renovating Cleveland Browns Stadium. Now, that sentiment has changed, as the team is also actively considering building a $2 billion domed facility in suburban Brook Park, Ohio, where Haslam and his wife, Dee, have an option to buy 176 acres of land. Brook Park is near Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

The Haslams insist the new consideration is not a negotiating ploy to extract taxpayer dollars for a $1 billion downtown renovation, and that neither option is currently favored over the other.

“We’re looking at both options. Not one option is above the other,” Dee Haslam said. “But I do think Cleveland deserves to be thought of as this evolving, forward-thinking creative city as opposed to not thinking big.”

Similar to the Bears’ efforts in Chicago, building a domed stadium would open up Cleveland to bid for hosting large-scale indoor events (Super Bowl, Final Four, and College Football Playoff, for example) that it currently cannot. 

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