CLEVELAND (WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team went one-on-one with the Cuyahoga County Executive investigating what you might have to pay for any new project involving the Cleveland Browns stadium.
We asked in the midst of growing talk about big renovations.
The Browns say they are studying “a significant stadium renovation at our current site” while also looking at development along the lakefront.
So, we went to county executive Chris Ronayne, asking where he stands on county funding for any kind of project with the stadium for the Browns.
“My take is, when and if that happens, we’ll listen,” he said.
He said no one has come forward yet and asked for tax money for a stadium project. But, if that happens, he first wants to see the team and the state stepping up to help pay.
“My instinct? This is only instinct, is that, number one, a team has to go deep in its own financing. And, two, if there’s any public financing, there’s got to be broad participation. It’s something for the State of Ohio to discuss,” Ronayne said.
We put in a request to talk to someone at Cleveland City Hall about this, but no one there is answering our questions even though the stadium belongs to the City of Cleveland.
Meanwhile, the Browns issued a statement saying the team is talking about renovations, not a new building.
Peter John-Baptiste released a statement from the Haslam Sports Group.
“As we have consistently communicated, along with the City of Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Partnership and other prominent local organizations, we have been immersed in discussing ways to best approach the lakefront’s future and the stadium naturally is a critical piece to the long-term execution of such a project. Contrary to recent speculation, a recent feasibility study we launched does not contemplate a new stadium or showcase new stadium sites. [A significant stadium renovation at our current site is the premise of the study as well as a focus on how to provide accessibility to the lakefront, drive density and create 365-destination major development opportunities that would include new public parks, retail, office, experiential and residential spaces.] The vision, as many in our community have already seen, is centered on an extensive land bridge.”
Ronayne also sees room for development along the lakefront and around the current stadium.
“I’ll just put on my former planning director hat. I think that there’s a lot of opportunity to activate what’s really vacant, right now, on the waterfront,” he said.
Among those watching all of this is Reverend Jimmy Gates. He leads Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Cleveland and he’s a Browns season ticket holder.
“This is going on my 49th year I’ve been a season ticket holder with the Cleveland Browns,” he said.
Reverend Gates says he understands stadium improvements, but he also says it can’t all come at the cost of taxpayers.
“I look at people that are barely making it. I see people walking up and down Kinsman, where my church is, they can hardly make it,” he added.
The statement from Peter John-Baptiste also said:
“As we are just beginning the study, we certainly do not have enough information to determine the cost of renovating the stadium or what the aesthetics of such a renovation would entail. We believe our study will help answer those questions and should be completed in 2023. The future of the stadium is one of several important pieces to the long-term execution of the lakefront project, and our organization looks forward to continuing to work with our community partners and leaders to identify next steps and our role in helping advance this initiative.”
A lot more to come on any stadium project, but already, some debate over who should pay for what.