By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Browns are discussing long-term plans for a major downtown development project that could include major stadium renovations — or a new facility.
Owner Dee Haslam revealed to ESPN that the team has done some preliminary work by speaking to city officials and there has been positive feedback. She said any project could take 10 years to complete, and cautioned nothing has been decided.
“So I think it’s really important to find out what’s possible,” she told ESPN. “There could be a lot of great ideas that we might not be able to do because it’s not feasible for one reason or another. I don’t want to get the horse in front of the cart until we’re knowledgeable enough to know, because we’re not informed enough to know right now. But we do know that we have a desire to make a bigger impact on the future of Cleveland.”
As part of the process, the team is conducting an economic impact study with Cleveland State University. Haslam cited the development of the Gateway project, which includes Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena, as an example of how some of the city’s under-used areas could be better developed.
FirstEnergy Stadium, which was built before the Browns returned as an expansion team in 1999, shares space along Lake Erie with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Great Lakes Science Center. But much of the area near those facilities is either underdeveloped or not used.
Haslam said the Browns will complete their lease, which runs through 2029. The team recently finished a $125 million renovation, paying $95 million of the cost.
Haslam insisted any discussion about a new stadium would be premature, and that any decision on the long-term future should be made by taxpayers.
“I have no idea at this point what’s even feasible,” Haslam said. “Don’t you think it’s a good idea for us to learn and figure that out? I really do think that would be a decision by the people of Cleveland and the planners,” she said. “I think what we need to do is be part of the conversation.”
Haslam recently stepped down as the CEO of RIVR Media to concentrate on the Browns fulltime.
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