Cleveland taxpayers will be kicking in $2 million in each of the next 15 years toward the $120 million cost of improvements at FirstEnergy Stadium under a tentative agreement reached Tuesday between the city and the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland City Council will consider legislation to confirm the deal Monday under its fast-track procedures. The Browns are paying up front the entire cost of the renovations the team announced last week. The true cost of the city's contribution is estimated at $22 million, not $30 million, because the money is being committed at the present-day value of the dollar. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Browns CEO Joe Banner announced the deal Tuesday afternoon from City Hall. Jackson said the city would not sacrifice any services to residents to make the payments. "I would do nothing to put the city of Cleveland in jeopardy ... or sidetrack or disrupt a councilman's desire to have development in their ward," Jackson said. "It's $2 million a year that is not needed to provide the level of service that we are providing today." City and Browns officials spent the day briefing individual council members. Councilman Jeffrey Johnson said in an interview after the news conference that siphoning $2 million from the city's general fund each year unquestionably would hurt the neighborhoods. "We may be the landlord of the stadium," Johnson said. "But we're also the landlord of the city streets, which desperately need to be resurfaced." Johnson said he has asked city lawyers to issue an opinion explaining why the city is legally obligated to pay for the improvements under the lease. As part of the deal, the city will give the Browns organization more input on how to spend about $12 million of the $24 million already in the stadium's existing capital improvement fund set by the stadium lease and fed by the existing Cuyahoga County tax on alcohol and cigarette sales, known as a sin tax. In exchange for having input on the capital repairs fund, the Browns will allow the city to reduce its payments to the capital repairs fund in the final years of the lease. Banner said the deal is a modest investment by the city based on its lease obligations. Banner and Jackson said they would support a campaign to extend the sin tax, which expires in 2015 and is solely dedicated to the FirstEnergy Stadium's capital fund. Jackson said a new sin tax would help reduce the city's liability. Jackson said a new sin tax would help reduce the city's liability. The Cleveland Indians and Cavaliers also want to extend the sin tax to help pay for improvement plans for Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena. Any sin tax, which requires support from Cuyahoga County Council and county voters, would be split three ways.
Browns, city of Cleveland reach agreement on $120 million stadium project
Cleveland Plain Dealer | Nov 20