Monday, November 25, 2013 at 5:46 PM
Cleveland City Council will vote tonight on whether to chip in public money to help fund a $120 million-dollar upgrade of FirstEnergy stadium. Council debated the measure today in a four-hour hearing. ideastream’s Nick Castele reports.
The Browns and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson are asking city council to approve a plan to spend $2 million a year for 15 years to fund stadium upgrades that include new state of the art high resolution scoreboards, escalators and a new audio system.
The yearly $2 million payments are coming out of the city’s general fund.
The city would also allow the team to decide how to spend $12 million from a fund already set aside for stadium repairs, paid for by a tax on alcohol and cigarettes.
Several council members pushed back hard against the measure. Councilwoman Dona Brady says that money should go to bettering city services – something she says her residents ask for when she walks her neighborhood.
“As I walked and I heard that we need housing inspectors, they leaf collection back, they want their streets cleaned, they want these abandoned houses down,” Brady said. “Nobody asked me for a scoreboard.”
In response, the mayor’s office argues the city’s 1996 lease agreement with the Browns requires the city to chip in for stadium upgrades. Mayor Jackson’s chief of staff, Ken Silliman, says the city is paying less than the lease demands—and that the plan could preempt larger expenses in the future – possibly even that of an entirely new stadium.
“What we are doing by that $2 million a year is we are investing now so we don’t have to pay a big bill in the future,” Silliman said.
Still, Silliman acknowledges that if the stadium needs emergency repair work in the future, the city will be on the hook.
The current lease agreement also has the city paying the stadium’s property taxes, and paying hundreds of millions of dollars toward construction debt.
City council votes tonight, and needs two-thirds approval to pass the measure. It’s not clear if opponents have the votes to stop its expected passage.
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