NFL stadium considered for Cleveland
- The NFL's Cleveland Browns reportedly told ESPN that it may build a stadium downtown or renovate its existing facility in order to play a bigger role in the city's growth and ongoing redevelopment.
- Browns owner Dee Haslam said the organization is conducting an economic impact study in partnership with Cleveland State University. Although still in the information-gathering stage, he said that retail, residential and commercial development could all play a role in the development around a new venue. Haslam said it was too early to discuss potential financing strategies.
- The Browns' lease at FirstEnergy Stadium, located on the Lake Erie shore, does not expire until 2029, and the team, as part of a two-year project that wrapped up in 2015, spent $95 million toward a $125 million renovation of the venue. Haslam said any future stadium decisions would not be made by the team, but by Cleveland residents.
The Browns join other professional sports teams looking to make their venues a yearlong attraction. Those organizations are willing to spend billions to do so, especially when they can garner significant financial support from state and local governments. The NFL's Raiders' new $1.8 billion Las Vegas stadium, currently under construction, is a prime example of this trend.
The Nevada legislature approved a new Clark County hotel tax that will funnel $750 million toward the project via tax-exempt bonds. According to Bloomberg, these kinds of deals are likely to motivate other professional sports organizations to pursue public financing as well, following in the footsteps of the New York Yankees and Mets, which scored bond financing of $943 million and $547 million, respectively, in 2006. In fact, Axios reported in November that public agencies have taken on $13 billion in tax-exempt bond financing for sports facilities since 2000.
However, some communities have rejected footing the bill for what they consider to be rich team owners who should pay their own way, even though these projects inject cash into the local economy and create construction and other related jobs. For example, in November 2016, San Diego voters rejected a proposal that would have raised the local hotel tax by 4% in order to help fund a new $1.8 billion stadium for the NFL's Chargers and associated convention center in the city's downtown. After the measure failed at the ballot box, the team relocated to Los Angeles and will share the league's Rams' new $3 billion stadium when construction is complete.
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