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Browns one of next NFL teams in line with large taxpayer stadium subsidy request

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Cleveland is one of the next cities asking for public funding for a renovation or new NFL stadium after the city councils of Charlotte and Jacksonville each approved more than $600 million in public funding.

Browns’ ownership, the Haslam Sports Group, has reportedly pitched Cleveland and Ohio state leadership on funding half of a potential $1.2 billion renovation of Cleveland Browns stadium or having state and local governments each pay $600 million of taxpayer funds – a total of $1.2 billion – toward building a new stadium in Brook Park.

The Haslam Sports Group includes Pilot Flying J truck chairman Jimmy Haslam and Bill Haslam, the former governor of Tennessee. Tennessee gave a lump sum of $500 million toward the construction of a new Tennessee Titans stadium, set to open in 2027, that received $1.27 billion in public taxpayer funding for construction.

Browns leadership commented on the progress of stadium talks in February.

“We understand the magnitude of opportunity with a stadium project intent on driving more large-scale events to our region and are methodically looking at every possibility,” Cleveland Browns/Haslam Sports Group Spokesperson Peter John-Baptiste said. “We appreciate the collaborative process with the City of Cleveland and the leadership of Mayor Bibb in analyzing the landbridge and renovating the current stadium.

“At the same time, as part of our comprehensive planning efforts, we are also studying other potential stadium options in Northeast Ohio at various additional sites. There is still plenty of work to do and diligence to process before a long term stadium solution is determined and will share further updates at the appropriate time.”

Charlotte approved $650 million of tax money for a renovation at the Carolina Panthers’ field, owned by hedge-fund billionaire David Tepper. The next day, Jacksonville approved $775 million of taxpayer funds toward a renovation of the Jaguars’ Everbank Field and an additional $25 million incentive for a development near the stadium.

Economists who have studied publicly-funded stadium deals have repeatedly shown the deals do not bring the promised returns and do not spur other economic activity in a community.

As economist J.C. Bradbury of Georgia’s Kennesaw State University has pointed out, that is especially true of renovations to existing NFL stadiums at the same spot.

“There is no legitimate policy justification for devoting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to upgrade an NFL football stadium,” Bradbury told The Center Square. “The research on this is clear and unambiguous: sports stadiums are not salutary public investments.”

The Chicago Bears have so far been unsuccessful while pushing for public funding for a new stadium on either Chicago’s lakeshore near Soldier Field or property tax breaks on a property in suburban Arlington Heights that is a former horse racing course.

The Kansas City Chiefs, meanwhile, have been courting Kansas for a new home after voters in Jackson County, Missouri, rejected a referendum to put a new sales tax in place to fund a new stadium. Kansas leaders have discussed using STAR bonds to finance a stadium there.

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