Cleveland Browns unveil first wave of stadium improvements to better fan experience

BEREA, Ohio - When the Cleveland Browns played the first game in their new stadium in 1999, cell phones were used for making calls only, HDTV was a much-talked about thing of the future and a 25-inch tube television could be classified as a "big screen."

Much has changed over the last 14 years, but the stadium has not and for many, the fan experience can summed up in two words: man cave.

"That's partially why I haven't been to a game lately," said fan Mike Blaser of Stow. "It's just better to stay at home, watch it on HD at home on a huge screen, get a better view."

As HDTVs have come down in price and grown in size, and cable packages enable fans to follow not just the game and their fantasy league players on the same screen in high definition, NFL franchises have had to counter.

"That wasn't the case 10 years ago," said new Browns President Alec Scheiner, the man owner Jimmy Haslam brought in from Dallas to improve the fans game-day experience.

There, he was involved in the opening of Cowboys Stadium with its massive HDTV screen, suspended above the field and measuring roughly 60 yards wide by 25 yards high.

A new scoreboard is in the works next year for Cleveland. For now, Scheiner said Monday the team is focusing on improving what they can for fans after spending the offseason listening to them to see what they want to have changed.

For Shawn Donahue of Avon Lake it's cell service.

"That's one thing that just drove me crazy you'd be down there you're trying to meet someone else in another section of the stadium and you can't get ahold of anyone," he said. "You can never get a signal or anything in there."

Scheiner said Monday the Browns have installed a new Verizon cell tower while upgrading the existing AT&T tower.

Other improvements that fans will notice when at the team's preseason opener August 8 will be quicker access to the stadium. The Browns have installed 20 new turnstiles and 44 new security screening chutes that the team said will enable them to get 4,000 more fans into the stadium every 15 minutes than they were able to do last season.

The energy surrounding the game will be ramped up, following the lead of many other NFL teams by adding a drumline that will play a role in a whole new way of player introductions.

"We'll have pyrotechnics, we'll have a different way for them to run on the field. We've talked to our coaches, we've talked to our players, it will look a lot different," Scheiner said. "We hope that pre-game is good enough that people are not going to want to miss it."

"We know we have a lot of work to do and this is really just the beginning for us. The more feedback we get from our fans the better."

Fan Jeff Cozey summed up the feeling of many. "The improvement is winning that's it! That will solve anybody else's issues."

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