Although the Cleveland Browns have more than a decade before the lease at their current stadium runs out, the team is already trying to figure out what might come next.
During an interview with ESPN.com this week, Browns co-owner Dee Haslam revealed that the team is in the very early stages of planning a major downtown development project that could include a new stadium. Haslam also said that the team might consider renovating FirstEnergy Stadium, which opened in 1999.
"The main thing is to start the conversation, at some point," Haslam said. "I don't know that we're ready to start the conversation, but we are ready to get all the information we can about what's possible. So I think it's really important to find out what's possible."
According to Haslam, the Browns want to get all their options on the table before they decide what move to make.
"There could be a lot of great ideas that we might not be able to do because it's not feasible for one reason or another," Haslam said. "I don't want to get the horse in front of the cart until we're knowledgeable enough to know, because we're not informed enough to know right now. But we do know that we have a desire to make a bigger impact on the future of Cleveland."
Due to the weather in Cleveland, a domed stadium or a retractable roof might make sense, but Haslam wasn't ready to commit to any type of design when she was asked about the plans this week.
"Those are all the questions that you ask over the next five years," Haslam said. "We are not developers. We don't know about it. We are in the learning stages of what you would do, so we don't know. I don't think anybody has any idea of how that would work. I think it's way premature to have some of these conversations."
Whenever there's talk of a new stadium, one of the first questions that comes up involves who will be footing the bill. Although there's no answer to that question yet, the Haslams have already shown that they're willing to contribute some serious money to get things done. In 2015, the team paid for roughly $95 million toward a $125 million renovation of FirstEnergy that took two years to complete. The Browns' lease at FirstEnergy Stadium expires in 2029.
If the Browns do build a new stadium, it likely wouldn't be up and running until 2030. To put that in perspective, even if Baker Mayfield turns out to be an All-Pro quarterback, he'd be well into the back half of his career, as he'd be going into his 13th season when the stadium opens.