Cleveland Browns want city to spend $5.8 million for stadium repairs
Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2012, 6:30 PM Updated: Thursday, January 19, 2012, 1:16 AM
By Thomas Ott, The Plain Dealer The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns want the city to give the team seven years of football stadium repair money -- $5.8 million -- right now.
The team contends the work is necessary to maintain a 12-year-old stadium battered by a sometimes harsh northern climate, and it has asked for an exception to a 30-year lease that calls for the city to set aside $850,000 a year for major repairs.
Under the complicated proposal, the Browns would get this year's $850,000 plus $5 million from the next six years of repair money drawn from the tax revenue collected countywide on alcohol and tobacco sales and administered by the city. In exchange, the city would not have to make its annual contributions from the tax money to a stadium repair fund for the next six years.
But what happens if additional needs arise during that time? Ken Silliman, Mayor Frank Jackson's chief of staff, said the city will consider dipping further into the so-called sin tax money.
Browns general counsel Fred Nance was guarded about what the team would be willing to do.
"If that situation were to happen, the city and the Browns would sit down and work out something that, first and foremost, ensures the integrity of the building and its systems," he said.
The Browns' request requires approval from the City Council. Councilman Michael Polensek, a frequent critic of public subsidies for professional sports teams, said he hopes the team will shoulder all of the burden if it needs more money.
"I don't think they understand how this plays with the citizens," he said.
Cuyahoga County voters agreed in 1995 to dedicate the sin tax to help build the stadium, which ended up costing more than $290 million, and eventually to cover $29 million in repairs.
The sin tax, which expires in 2015, currently raises $13 million a year. Starting this spring, the city must begin putting the sin tax money aside for stadium repairs.
Silliman said officials know they have to figure out how to pay for repairs after the tax expires. He said he has heard no discussion of renewing the tax again.
The money the Browns would get for repairs this year would include an estimated $1.2 million for refurbishing club seats on the north and south sides of the stadium and at the east end zone. Another $750,000 will pay to waterproof the concrete under those seats.
Most of the rest of the $5.8 million would go for replacement and repair of concrete on interior ramps and walkways and a plaza outside the stadium.
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