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More questions than answers for Browns stadium deal

Browns Stadium in the background and the Amtrak parking lot in the foreground.
Ygal Kaufman
Ideastream Public Media
Browns Stadium sits on lakefront land between Downtown Cleveland and Lake Erie.

The Cleveland Browns have always played on the shores of Lake Erie, and while it seems like major stakeholders want that to continue, Ideastream Public Media sports commentator Terry Pluto isn't sure it's the best idea.

Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam said they would ideally keep the team within the city, on the lakefront. But they would only guarantee the team would stay in Northeast Ohio, which doesn't necessarily mean the lakefront.

Developers and architects working with the city of Cleveland included a new or refurbished stadium in blueprints for the North Coast Master Plan — on the lakefront. So what are the sticking points?

"Well, the question has always been who's going to pay for it and what's it going to be," said Pluto. "Remodeling the stadium or a new stadium?"

He said he believes a dome is too expensive and that the stadium will stay put and be remodeled. But he thinks another location in the region would make more sense.

"Who cares where you put the football stadium? I really want to make it that they (the city) get the most out of the lakefront and what's best for Cleveland on that lakefront," Pluto said. "I'm not smart enough and claiming, in terms of being an urban planner and all these things, how important that stadium would be to that other (North Coast Master Plan) development. I just know there's limited amount of real estate on the lake."

Would that upset the fans? Pluto thinks that a seven-year season ticket waiting list for the NFL's worst team since 1999 provides the answer.

"You could put that empty orange helmet on the 50-year-line, charge twenty bucks and get 50,000 people to stare at it," Pluto said.

Football stadiums are expensive and they don't get the kind of extra use that an indoor basketball arena might get, with concerts and other events. nor would it host the large number of home games that a baseball field does.

The stadium deal for the Buffalo Bills is for about $1.4 billion, according to Pluto, with around two-thirds of the funding coming from the public. Nashville and the Tennessee Titans are scheduled to build a dome for more than $2 billion.

Stadium deals are usually public-private partnerships. The latest deal for Progressive Field required city, county and state involvement. A new Browns stadium and development plan that would include a land bridge and relocating Route 2 in Downtown Cleveland would require the same type of cooperation.

Pluto believes familiar funding sources, such as a hotel tax, rental car tax and sin tax on tobacco and alcohol, would make up some of the public portion.

The Haslams and political representatives have less than five years to figure it out.

Glenn Forbes is supervising producer of newscasts at Ideastream Public Media.