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Pluto: Stop Putting Public Money into Pro Sports Teams

Joelle Harms, AthleticTurf.net

The Cleveland Browns are getting a backlash over their plans to eventually move training camp to Columbus, and seeking public money to do it. The Browns have opened the late-summer practice sessions at the team’s headquarters in Berea to fans for nearly 25 years. WKSU commentator Terry Pluto talks about the move and why he doesn't like it:

Terry Pluto says there are a dozen NFL teams who don’t hold their training camp in the cities where they play. For example, the Steelers train at Saint Vincent College in LaTrobe, Pa., which is about 40 minutes from Pittsburgh. The Buffalo Bills train at St. John Fisher College just outside Rochester, about 1 1/2 hours away. And the most puzzling training camp location is that of the New Orleans Saints, who train in White Sulfur Springs, W.Va. He’s not sure why. “Maybe they just think it’s too hot in New Orleans,” Pluto says.

For Browns fans, the idea of moving any aspect of the organization is troubling, given the agony they endured when the team moved to Baltimore in 1996. And Pluto says the timing is even worse, with recent news that the St. Louis Rams are moving back to Los Angeles.

Why move camp?
“For years, there’s been the battle of Columbus to get that market. Do you want to be the second team behind Ohio State? My view is this: Jimmy Haslam owns the team. He wants to have training camp in Columbus; it’s his prerogative. I wish he would not do it, but I’m not bent out of joint about that."

"What are they thinking that they want people in the state of Ohio to pay for a Browns training facility?"

But, there’s one part of the plans Pluto doesn’t like:
Columbus economic development officials want $5 million from the state to build a sports facility to host training camp. They’ve asked for the funding from Ohio’s capital improvement budget.

“I’ve had it with public money for these teams,” Pluto says. “What are they thinking that they want people in the state of Ohio to pay for a Browns training facility?”

What Columbus hopes to gain
“Columbus thinks it would probably bring some prestige. Columbus likes to think now that they rule the state of Ohio. The state government is there and depending upon which demographics you use, sometimes they claim they’re a bigger area than Northeast Ohio.

"But all they got is the Blue Jackets for the major leagues. Now they do have Ohio State, and minor league baseball and soccer and so on. And so they probably figure, 'At least we’ll have training camp.'

"If Jimmy wants to take the Browns training camp to Columbus, fine. I don’t like it. I would rather have training camp close. I think your fan base is still in Northeast Ohio. But I can’t pretend he’s doing something that is completely unprecedented when 12 of the teams and there’s probably (are) going to be more going elsewhere for training camp."

Not a Spartan atmosphere
Pluto thinks back to when owner Paul Brown held training camp at Hiram College from 1952 to 1974.

“The idea was not to get a big market like Columbus, but the idea was to go away to a Spartan atmosphere. I don’t think if the Browns move to Columbus it’s going to be very Spartan. If anything it’s going to be in typical NFL opulence that they have.

The attraction of the NFL and for these different legislatures and municipalities want to throw money at just for even a training camp still amazes me in this era where let’s face we’re all taxed to death and budgets are very difficult for most municipalities and counties and everybody else to pay the bills. So, you shouldn’t be paying for the Browns to move to Columbus. If they want to come, fine. They build their own.”

Pluto’s idea
“Bring it to a vote. Put it on a ballot statewide and see it goes. But they probably won’t.”

The Browns announced they will hold training camp at the Berea facilities this year.

Terry Pluto talks about the 2016 Hall of Fame class

Amanda Rabinowitz is the host of “All Things Considered” on Ideastream Public Media.