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Danny Cunningham: Why a new stadium with a roof makes sense for the Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns are reportedly considering building a new stadium when their lease at FirstEnergy Stadium expires.

CLEVELAND — The rumors of a new stadium for the Cleveland Browns in the not-so-distant future have swirled over the last couple days. That, naturally, has sparked the debate over whether or not that new building should be covered by a roof. 

One will not happen with the other, and they would both be terrific things for the Cleveland Browns and the City of Cleveland as a whole. 

As currently constructed, FirstEnergy Stadium doesn’t attract many big events. There’s the occasional summer concert to go along with the regular slate of Browns home games on 10 dates throughout the fall and winter. Between when the Browns' season ends in January and a potential summer concert in June or July, the stadium sits mostly vacant. 

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Yes, there is nothing that can be done about the weather on the shores of Lake Erie. That’s always going to make it less than an ideal spot to hang out from November until June, but the stadium itself does no favors, either. Replacing FirstEnergy Stadium with an enclosed stadium would not only be a good thing for the Browns on Sundays throughout the fall, but it would be a good thing for Cleveland on plenty of other days throughout the rest of the year. 

Other events

One of the first things that gets brought up with the enclosed stadium is that Cleveland would have a chance to host a Super Bowl. In the modern era, the NFL has taken the Super Bowl to an open-air cold-weather stadium one time, in East Rutherford, New Jersey back in 2014. Cleveland was never, ever going to join that list with FirstEnergy Stadium. But if there were to be a state-of-the-art enclosed stadium roughly 50 miles from the birthplace of the league, it’s hard to imagine the NFL not awarding Cleveland at least one Super Bowl. This isn’t to say that Cleveland would become part of the regular rotation of hosts, but at least one Super Bowl would happen, and with Cleveland’s strong track record of event hosting, it’s not crazy to think that it would come back a decade or more later. 

The other event that could find itself in Cleveland should the new enclosed stadium come to fruition is the NCAA Final Four. Cleveland has hosted regionals for the NCAA Tournament at then-Quicken Loans Arena (now Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse) but has never been a candidate for a Final Four due to the lack of a facility. Again, this isn’t something where Cleveland would become part of a regular rotation in all likelihood, but it would have the opportunity to host one, which would be a really big deal for the city. 

If this sounds crazy, just think of two cities north of Cleveland that have been able to land these events. Both Detroit and Minneapolis are slightly larger cities than Cleveland, but they’ve both hosted Super Bowls and Final Fours. If those two cities can pull it off, there’s little doubt Cleveland would be able to. The facility just needs to be here to make it happen.

Football weather

Yes, there’s the argument that football is meant to be played outdoors in the elements. It’s an argument that many people believe in and one that this writer can respect but disagree with. In fact, a very wise coach once told me in college, “the elements are always in your favor,” as a way to push through rainy, cold, unpleasant Northeast Ohio days.

The elements are always in your favor if it’s 72 degrees and sunny every single day, too. There’s no such thing as a cold-weather team in the NFL. The league has transformed into a passing league and the Browns are following suit with the controversial addition of quarterback Deshaun Watson this offseason. 

Even if that weren’t the case, Nick Chubb is pretty good when it’s nice out, too. The product on the field would become better and more fan-friendly. There have been plenty of seasons that have ended poorly that have featured bad teams playing meaningless games in bad weather. Nothing about that combination makes anyone other than the most diehard of all the fans want to go. Eliminating the weather aspect of that could help to change that, even though the hope is that the Browns aren’t in that situation competitively for a long, long time. 

Economic impact

All the things listed above would help the City of Cleveland economically. Bringing a Super Bowl here would mean upwards of $500 million in economic impact, and bringing a Final Four to the city would bring a pretty big number, too. Adding a stadium that has a retractable roof wouldn’t just help the Browns, but it would help continue to transform Cleveland into a world-class city and improve the quality of life in Northeast Ohio.

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