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Monday, July 15, 2024

Where Will the Browns Play Next? Team Has Viable Stadium Options

  • Both the city of Cleveland and suburban Brook Park heighten their stadium pitches to the Browns.
  • The team’s current lease at Cleveland Browns Stadium expires in 2028.
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

The Browns have one of the NFL’s more tortured on-field histories. But when it comes to developing a new or upgraded stadium, the team can boast multiple options that are rapidly growing more serious. 

Just one of four teams to never play in a Super Bowl (Jaguars, Lions, and Texans are the others), the Browns for months have made clear their desire to upgrade their stadium situation beyond the lakefront Cleveland Browns Stadium that is nearly 25 years old. That consideration has involved two main choices: renovating the current facility as part of a broader downtown revamp, or building a new stadium in suburban Brook Park, Ohio, where Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam have an option to purchase 176 acres of land near Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. 

Now, both of those potential outcomes are gaining additional weight. The Brook Park City Council recently passed unanimously a resolution “encouraging the Haslam Sports Group to strongly consider” the parcel—formerly the site of two Ford Motor Company plants—as the location for a new domed stadium and entertainment district. Brook Park mayor Edward Orcutt then signed the resolution. 

The city of Cleveland, meanwhile, is pushing forward, too. Officials there have applied for a $260 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help pay for a $440 million renovation of downtown. The pursuit of federal funds is independent of what the Browns decide to do. But it nonetheless enhances the broader potential of the area, particularly as the city’s redevelopment plan seeks to better connect the lakefront near the current stadium and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with the rest of downtown Cleveland. 

The option of a renovated Cleveland Browns Stadium is estimated at about $1 billion, while building in Brook Park would cost $2.4 billion. The Browns have steadily insisted they are not playing the two jurisdictions off each other in search of a better deal, and, as of now, a 50-50 split between private and public funding in either situation has been contemplated. But it’s becoming more likely the team will have solid possibilities in either scenario, and the Brook Park consideration has even included a release of early-stage stadium renderings.

Bigger Aspirations

Similar to the Bears’ stadium pursuit in Chicago, and developing efforts for a new Chiefs stadium, 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. 

The Browns’ stadium lease expires in 2028.

There is an extra layer to the emerging battle between Cleveland and Brook Park for the Browns. The city said Wednesday it will start deposing Brook Park residents in a seven-year-old lawsuit between the two jurisdictions stemming from a failed expansion of the airport. That dispute does not involve the Browns, but the political battling there is difficult to separate from the rising stadium issue.

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