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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CLEVELAND BROWNS STADIUM

CLEVELAND BROWNS STADIUM

CLEVELAND BROWNS STADIUM, erected on the same site as Cleveland Municipal Stadium, was completed in August 1999 - ensuring that Cleveland would be granted an expansion football team. Plans to build the stadium were quickly set into motion following Art Modell's announcement that he was moving the CLEVELAND BROWNS football team to Baltimore in November 1995. In a series of meetings with the NFL in late 1995 and early 1996, Mayor Michael White reached an agreement with the NFL that if a new stadium was built to their specifications, Cleveland would be granted an expansion team for the 1999-2000 season and the league would pay $43 million towards the stadium. White quickly announced plans to build a primarily publicly funded $247 million dollar open air stadium. Thoughts on building a domed stadium, an idea that had been pushed by the Domed Stadium Corporation since the mid 1980s, were scrapped given the financial constraints. In April 1996, the City Planning Commission selected the lakefront site occupied by CLEVELAND MUNICIPAL STADIUM as the site where the new arena would be built. In June 1996, a consortium of architects led by HOK Sports Facilities Group, the firm that designed Jacobs Field, was selected to design the new football stadium. Shortly following the demolition of the old stadium, a ceremonial ground breaking for the new stadium was held in May 1997. The construction of the stadium took over two years and was completed in August 1999. Al Lerner, the new owner of the Browns, chose to forego selling the naming rights to the new stadium to a corporation and christened it Cleveland Browns Stadium. He sold naming rights to the stadiums' four main entrances instead.

The 73,000 seat stadium occupies 17 acres. Although it has roughly 6,000 fewer seats than its predecessor, it is 60 feet taller and 50% larger. It has 8,754 club seats, 2,700 seats in luxury suites, 43 permanent concession areas, and 71 restrooms (the latter being a particularly vast improvement). In addition, the stadium features the largest and most advanced video screens of any NFL Stadium. On August 15, 1999, an open house was held for Browns fans. About 100,000 fans brought 21 tons of canned food for the Cleveland Foodbank and Harvest for Hunger so that they could tour the $300 million facility. On August 18, 20,000 season ticket holders came to see the expansion Cleveland Browns first practice at the facility. The first game at the stadium, attended by 71,398 fans, was an exhibition game between the Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings on August 21. The Vikings won 24-17. The first regular season game, a nationally televised game on Monday Night Football on Sept. 13, resulted in the Browns getting thrashed 41-0 by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While the Cleveland Browns Stadium was principally built for football games, it has hosted numerous parties in its corridors. The first concert to be held at the stadium was the George Strait Country Music Festival held on May 20, 2000 and attended by 47,000 fans. Opera was brought back to the lakefront site for the first time since the thirties with the performance of the Three Tenors on June 26, 2000 before 30,000 fans.