CLEVELAND — At this point, plenty remains uncertain about the Cleveland Browns' search for a potential new stadium.
But while he isn't sure whether the Browns will be renovating FirstEnergy Stadium or building a new stadium in a different location, NEOtrans blog's Ken Prendergast -- who broke the story regarding the team's exploration of new stadium sites -- is confident that construction will begin relatively soon.
"I think they're going to have a stadium under construction by 2028," Prendergast told 3News' Isabel Lawrence, referring to the year that the Browns' lease at FirstEnergy Stadium is set to end. "Whether they find they can't afford it or there's not enough public support in the community, then they'll have to go back to renovating the existing stadium, which from what I understand, they really don't want to do... they would like to replace that stadium."
Rather, based on his reporting, Prendergast believes that it would be the Browns' preference to build a new stadium, which would likely include either a dome or retractable roof, at a new location. In his reporting last week, Prendergast cited two potential locations the team has been exploring: southeast of downtown, where the Main Post Office is currently located at 2400 Orange Ave., and a location just east of downtown’s central business district, north of St. Clair Avenue -- potentially between East 13th and East 17th streets.
While the location east of downtown's central business district might seem preferable considering its proximity to the lakefront, Prendergast noted that the Post Office location might be more feasible considering that it would require fewer businesses to move from their current locations.
"In terms of ease of operations and low cost, probably the easiest one to do is the Post Office site because it's just a big piece of land," Prendergast said. "The other site on the near east side of downtown is dozens and dozens of small properties... all it takes is one or two property holdouts and it bogs the whole thing down."
As Prendergrast alluded to, there is also uncertainty regarding how a new stadium or renovations to FirstEnergy Stadium would be financed. He did, however, state that one way or another, the public will have to pay.
"Whether they're rebuilding the existing stadium or building a new one, the public's going to pay for a significant portion of that," he said. "No matter what happens here, the taxpayer's going to pay for something."
The Browns and Haslam Sports Group released the following statement on the report Monday evening:
"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. 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."