Browns FirstEnergy Stadium upgrades: Some fans eager to help pay, others say focus should be on team

CLEVELAND - Cleveland Browns fans offered mixed reaction Wednesday to the team's plans to improve FirstEnergy Stadium.

"I don't think anything needs to be done to improve the stadium," said Jason Scott, a Cleveland resident. "I just think we need a better quarterback, and we'll be okay."

"A new scoreboard would be key," said Steve Lessick of Olmsted Falls. "The scoreboard is pretty bland."

At a news conference Wednesday, Browns officials announced that the stadium would be outfitted with new scoreboards, bigger video boards and more seating in the lower sections. They also said there are plans for a new audio system and escalators as well as renovated concession areas. The stadium was completed in 1999.

"A roof would be nice," Tom Boutros, a Cleveland resident.

"More handicap-friendly," said Mary Kruckenberg, who uses a wheelchair herself.  

The plan is projected to cost $120 million. To help pay for it, the team's officials said they may ask the public to fork over their own money, possibly extending the sin tax, which is money that Cuyahoga County residents pay on cigarettes and alcohol.

"We've paid enough to keep these things going," said Brenda Paul, a Cleveland resident. "I don't think they should extend the sin tax anymore."

The sin tax is set to expire in 2015 unless voters approve to extend it.

"Does the town have enough money?" asked Mike Roberts. "Answer is probably no. So can we lose the football team again? Quite possible."

However, other fans are happy to help pay for stadium upgrades.

"I would pay for it," said Kruckenberg.

"For me being a Browns fan, I'm all for it," said Lessick.

Regardless of the stadium, most fans want officials to focus more on the team than the stadium.

"More than anything, we need a better team," said Lessick.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson issued a statement Wednesday saying he supports the Browns' plan. The plan will be reviewed by the city's full planning commission Friday.

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