Cleveland died on November 6, 1995. It was on this day that former owner Art Modell announced that he was moving the Cleveland Browns of the NFL from Northern Ohio to Baltimore, Maryland. To say that this news was shocking is a bit of an understatement.
Almost immediately, the city of Cleveland, the NFL and Art Modell began negotiating a deal to keep the Browns legacy in Cleveland, to build a new NFL stadium and to bring an expansion NFL franchise back to Ohio. The Browns would remain dormant for 3 years and Al Lerner would bring the team back in 1999. The misery that would follow the Browns from this point would be nearly as devastating as the Browns leaving in 1996.
The Browns would make one lowly playoff appearance from 1999 and 2014. The now infamous Browns quarterback jersey homemade by a fan features a list of 21 current or former Cleveland quarterbacks. Possibly the worst part is Browns Backers having to watch the now hated Ravens win two Super Bowls.
Upon returning to the NFL, the Browns moved to the city-owned Cleveland Browns Stadium, located on the shore of Lake Erie and part of a rejuvenation of downtown Cleveland. Eventually the team would be sold to Jimmy Haslam and the naming rights to the stadium would be sold to FirstEnergy.
The stadium features one of the most resilient fan bases in all of sport. The Dawg Pound is one of the most famous fan areas in the NFL and sport. This group is still waiting for the past glory of the Browns to return and still fondly remembers the four NFL championships they won in the pre-Super Bowl era. With a sparkle of hope on the field in 2014, the Dawg Pound is waiting, hopefully not much longer!
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are a ton of food options available at FirstEnergy Stadium. There are numerous main concession stands which serve up the main food items. There are some differentiations between stands, but most serve the main things. Browns Bistro, Sideline Express and Dawg Pound Deli serve up hot dogs, brats, chicken tenders, fries, burgers, pretzels and popcorn. Soda products are from the Coca-Cola company and the main beer options are Budweiser and Bud Light. There are some other craft beers that are available throughout.
Other than the main concession stands there are numerous small concession carts with various specialty items. Some stands to check out include Sausage & Peppers, Downtown Dogs and Great Lake Cheesesteaks. The quality of the food you will get is very good. The prices are about what you would expect for an NFL stadium experience. One of the big drawbacks of concessions at FirstEnergy Stadium is that this is one of those stadiums that does not offer straws or lids for cups. A small pain, but a pain nonetheless.
FirstEnergy Stadium was the lynch pin for the NFL to return to Cleveland. The Browns provide an atmosphere during the game that is as good as any other NFL experience that there is. The stadium sits on the shores of Lake Erie and is configured in a northeast-southwest alignment. It is designed like many NFL stadiums with large grandstands along the sidelines and high grandstands past the end zones. Throughout the stadium are the typical plastic stadium seating, with the exception of the northeast end zone which features benches with backs.
High above both end zones are the videoboards which are not the typical rectangular shape. The boards are state of the art and used well by the Browns. They also have other screens which are dedicated to out of town scores as well as a board dedicated to in-game stats.
The Browns have a rather significant history and do a pretty good job of displaying it. Inside the stadium, the facia between the levels features the Browns Ring of Honor. Members must be inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame also and they include Joe DeLamielleure, Len Ford, Frank Gatski, Otto Graham, Lou Groza, Gene Hickerson, Leroy Kelly, Dante Lavelli, Mike McCormack, Bobby Mitchell, Marion Motley, Ozzie Newsome, Paul Warfield, Bill Willis, Coach Paul Brown, and the legendary Jim Brown.
The Browns also have a group they refer to as the Legends, which include players who had significant contributions to the Browns but are not enshrined in the Hall of Fame. The Legends are displayed on bronze plaques around the outside of the stadium and on banners inside Brownstown, an area in the concourse that features a large bar, displays of all of the Legends and live broadcasting of the pregame television show and the Browns Radio Network. It is a large space that does have some standing tables and is a decent place to eat pregame.
Outside the stadium, Dawg Pound Drive features a number of food trucks, activities for all, and the opportunity to have your picture taken with Swagger, who is the live mascot of the Browns. Swagger makes a grand entrance into the stadium ahead of the team and runs the end zone after the Browns score. The pregame festivities also feature the Browns drumline and player entrances with the typical flags, smoke and fire. Also before the game, the crowd will join in a happy rendition of "Hang on Sloopy" which also features the spelling Ohio by the crowd, something which has become tradition at Ohio State games.
The most significant part of the atmosphere has to be the Dawg Pound. Located in the northeast end zone, it is possibly the most famous fan area in all of professional sports. The Dawg Pound gets official recognition with signs in front of the area as well as a large banner which is spread over the section during pregame. The section is known for its hardcore fans and has become such a staple in Cleveland that the team with no logo and no mascot seems to have unofficially adopted a dog mascot.
What was once considered the mistake on the lake is now a go-to spot in the United States and has been the beacon for other down-trodden areas and what they can aspire to. FirstEnergy Stadium is located right on the banks of Lake Erie. You will find two major tourist attractions just to the east. The Great Lakes Science Center is a top notch spot for children of all ages. Thousands of people each year flock to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which is located just east of the Science Center. If you are coming to Cleveland to see the Browns, you absolutely MUST take some time to go to the Hall of Fame. Further east you can enter a real submarine in the USS Cod. It is only open until the end of September, so plan your visit well.
To the south of FirstEnergy Stadium you will find Progressive Field which is home of the Cleveland Indians. Right beside Progressive Field is Quicken Loans Arena which is home to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Cleveland Gladiators of the Arena Football League and the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL. The opportunity to find something else to keep your interest on a weekend in Cleveland is really easy.
Between the stadiums you will find a number of places for nightlife and pre or post game meals. Some spots include Winks, and the Urban Farmer. However, it is highly recommended that while in Cleveland you take a trip to the Winking Lizard. There are a few locations in the Cleveland area, including one near Progressive Field. The massive beer menu alone is worth the trip.
Cleveland Browns fans have created for themselves one of the worst reputations for a group of fans in any sport. The stories of looting in Memorial Stadium during the final Browns home game before leaving for Baltimore are scary. Cleveland fans are also to blame for the removal of bottle caps at games. Over time the Browns faithful have softened their reputation, but some memories are difficult to erase. That being said, Browns fans are as hearty and battle-tested as any group of fans this side of the Chicago Cubs.
Since returning to the NFL the Browns have made the playoffs only one time. The Browns annually average between 65,000 and 71,000 fans. Renovations to the stadium have reduced the capacity and sell-outs are more likely as of 2014. The Browns generally end up in the middle of the NFL when it comes to fans drawn in as well as percentage of capacity full. Browns fans create an excellent tailgating experience before the game and once in the game are knowledgeable and very loud, especially on the visiting team's offensive third downs.
FirstEnergy Stadium is located north of Highway 2, west of I-90 and north of I-77. It is not extremely close to the highways and you will have to travel through some downtown streets to get to the game. This can be slow if you do not leave yourself sufficient time to get there. There are lots of spots to park your car around the stadium. You may consider some pre-parking to avoid driving through downtown searching for just the right spot. Most of the lots down by the pier are tailgate lots and can be expensive and fill early. Once inside, getting around the stadium is not too difficult and the washroom facilities are adequate.
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Any NFL experience is not going to be a cheap one. That being said, the Cleveland Browns are relatively affordable as compared to most other NFL experiences. In the fan cost indexes, the Browns are among the bottom three in the entire league for cost to the fan. Tickets will range from $25 to $325 and most upper end zone tickets can be had for under $50 a piece. Concessions are average and the parking is not too bad either. This adds up to an experience that is well below the NFL average in terms of cost and not even within earshot of teams like the Cowboys or Patriots which may cost you a couple mortgage payments and a mule.
An extra mark for the Browns live mascot Swagger who joined the team in 2014. Swagger is a Bullmastiff for those dog enthusiasts out there.
An extra mark for the Browns game day staff playing that creepy Halloween theme during third downs on defense. The song is accompanied by a Michael Myers silhouette on the videoboard along with a Browns Pumpkinhead character.
An extra point goes to being the team of the King. Apparently, Elvis Presley was a Cleveland Browns fan as he was friends with Gene Hickerson.
A final extra point goes to doing things differently. The final player introduced during the pregame celebrations is always the signature player for that side of the ball. The Browns have to be the only team in the entire league introducing an offensive lineman out last. Joe Thomas is the final player to enter on offense and he gets a massive ovation.
The fans of the Browns have been through a lot. In some cases they have not done a very good job representing themselves. However, the tides are changing and there is some hope on the horizon. The Browns are putting a better product on the field and they are reaping the rewards of renewed excitement. Any way you slice it, Cleveland remains a football town and one of the best spots you could find to have a great weekend.
Cleveland Browns Stadium sits at the edge of Lake Erie and in the exact same spot as old Cleveland Municipal Stadium once sat before the Browns left town in 1996.
Easily accessible by either the Shoreway, via the RTA rapid transit system, Interstate 90 at the East 9th Street exit, Interstate 77, or Interstate 71; Browns Stadium is an impressive site sitting next to the Great Lakes Science Center and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
Parking is readily available all around the stadium and prices range around $15-$20 depending on which parking lot you choose. For example, the always popular Muni Lot is the latter price due to its history as being the best place to tailgate prior to the game.
Once in the stadium, a fan quickly notices the immense and large, open-air feel of the stadium. While many in the past have complained that the seats are not close enough to the field, the sheer size of the NFL's ninth largest stadium is a site to behold in itself.
There really is no bad seat in Browns Stadium and there are no obstructions to a fan's view as there once was in old Municipal Stadium, with its infamous lower deck pillars (sat behind one as a child in the early 80s).
Outside of the stadium there are plenty of bars and dining options. A plethora of bars are within walking distance in the Warehouse District on West Sixth Street. Fans can either drink to a Browns victory or drink their depression away depending on the results of the game.
Inside Browns Stadium, a pleasant surprise can be found with the restaurant Legends, which is available to all in attendance and once it gets really cold out over Lake Erie, it is a great place to warm up too.
The one thing those who attend Browns games at the stadium need to watch out for is the obnoxious and excessive swearing during games. Understandably, many Browns fans are angry with these new rules in place to make games more family-friendly, but keep your four-letter words in the Muni Lot during pre- and post-game tailgating otherwise the Cleveland Police will be quick to escort you out of the stadium without refund.
In the Browns' 2010 home opener against the Kansas City Chiefs, there were a reported 16 fans escorted out of the stadium for misbehaving and excessive bad language. You have been warned.
Arriving at Cleveland Browns Stadium (CBS) is as convenient as possible for Northeast Ohioans and visitors alike. Sitting on the lake between W. 3rd and E. 9th streets, the stadium is accessible via Greater Cleveland's RTA rail-train with a stop directly in front of the southwest ticket gate. Fans from both east and west suburbs of Cleveland can utilize this worry-free mode of transportation by purchasing an all-day pass for $5, ideal for when traveling alone to the game.
Parking is abundant near the stadium; while some lots are by pass only, the W. 3rd lot directly west of the stadium carries a modest price of $20 per vehicle. The largest tailgate party occurs in the Muni Lot, a 3-lot stretch of cinders that is just east of the stadium and borders Ohio Route 2. Parking here costs $25, but gives you the full Cleveland Browns tailgate experience; the most rabid of fans are known to park their RVs, buses, or trailers (painted browns and orange of course) overnight before the more popular games. Other surface lots and garages can be found with parking prices as low as $10 within 10 city blocks of the stadium; or find the right side street with parking meters, and park for free on weekends in the city.
For those without the outdoor culinary skills to tailgate with the professionals, nearby bars and restaurants in downtown Cleveland provide the normal casual fare. Various restaurants host gameday brunches (including the Hard Rock CafÃ© near Tower City), but the best may be at John Q's Steakhouse, situated at 55 Public Square (northwest corner of the square). During the week, Cleveland's white-collar crowd can be seen here having lunch by day and enjoying quality steakhouse meals at reasonable prices by night. For the eight Sundays hosting Browns' home games, the Sunday brunch is a welcomed respite to eating charcoal-flavored hotdogs. Made-to-order omelettes and prime rib draw the attention of diners, but the normal breakfast sides, fruit, and desserts do not go unnoticed. John Q's is a hallmark of finer football dining. My last visit to the brunch was two years ago, and I regret not making a stop during this past season.
If drinks and bar food are the sole targets of a pre-game meal, try a fairly new establishment bearing the name of Browns semi-legend and Saved By The Bell (The College Years) featured star, Bob Golic. At 1213 W. 6th Street, Bob Golic's Sports Bar and Grille rests at the north end of one of downtown Cleveland's entertainment hotspots, the Warehouse District. The bar is on the corner of Lakeside Avenue, making it a short walk down to the stadium. Food is reasonably priced and includes the usual burgers, wings, pizza, and ribs you'll find at any bar and grille. On game days, extra bartenders are placed among the crowd to offer $5, 24-ounce cans of domestic light beers, while the bar is fully stocked with liquor and other beer choices. The attraction of Bob Golic's is the atmosphere and connection to a star of the past, but not necessarily the menu. However, its location provides you with easy access to other pre-game watering holes, including a Cleveland staple, Panini's.
Once inside the stadium, the food and beverage choices range from the predictable (nachos and bratwursts) to the seemingly displaced (grilled chicken Caesar wraps!). A full meal can be had in the neighborhood of $14-$18 dollars if choosing the chicken tenders and fries combo ($10.50) along with your beverage of choice (bottled water at the low end, alcohol at the top). One recommended option for food is the basket of waffle fries with cheese and bacon. While also available plain with ketchup or with cheese and chili, the combo of nacho cheese and bacon is simple yet not a standard stadium offering. At only $5.50, the fries can serve as one individual's meal or shared between two without leaving either person feeling cheated.
Draft beers at the concession stands cost $6.75 for a twelve-ounce pour, while 16-ounce cans are available from walking vendors for only a quarter more at $7 each. The offerings I have found are nothing to excite a connoisseur of barley and hops: Bud Light, Coors Light, and Labatt Blue seem to be available from most concession stands and vendors. One slight disappointment is the lack of any microbrews or craft beers; both nearby Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena, homes of the Indians and Cavaliers, respectively, offer a wider range of beers, including selections from local favorite Great Lakes Brewing Company. In over 20 games attended in the past 5 years, I cannot recall ever finding something different than the common beers.
A relatively well-kept secret of the food and beverage experience in Cleveland Browns Stadium is Legends, located between the upper and lower levels of the northeast end of the stadium. Available to any ticketholder, not only does this concession area provide an array of stadium food staples and drinks, but a warm break from the Cleveland cold is welcomed. Your stay may be longer than expected, as flat-screen televisions are spread around and throughout the open floor, most tuned into the Browns game while a few show games from across the NFL. The typical beer selection is found here as well, but with the added bonus of a fully stocked bar (they'll even throw a shot of Bailey's Irish Cream into your coffee for a steep $8, but it's the only place to enjoy an Irish Coffee inside the stadium).
The one thing you have to remember about Cleveland Browns Stadium and its fans is that there has yet to be a blackout game since the rebirth of the franchise in 1999.
Now that is a passionate fans base especially with all the drama and turmoil this team has seen since 1999, which alone give the fan rating five stars.
The atmosphere can be rated any number of ways, but referring back to the not having a blackout since 1999 and if you have ever been to a Browns game when they won, there is no better place be. No fans cheering harder and louder for their team when they are winning than Browns fans, which give the atmosphere a five star rating too.
All the other ratings are a solid four out of five stars since the access is easy being right off of the Shoreway highway or a quick drive down East 9th Street which is accessible from I-90, I-77, and I-71.
Food & Bev. gets four stars because the prices are exactly what you would expect from at a football stadium.
Does a $7 beer really surprise you? C'mon now that's normal.
Finally, both the return and extras are both four stars because the experience is worthwhile regards of winning or losing because the experience is something you'll always remember especially since there is no bad seat in the house.
Bottom line, if there are a list of the top 10 stadiums to visit in the NFL, Cleveland Browns Stadium is easily on that list.
It may lately have become a "Factory of Sadness" but C.B.S. contains some of the most passionate fans in the NFL. There's something special about pulling into the Muni Parking Lot with all the tailgaters barking in full force on a cool winter afternoon. Great food in the club levels, more mediocre on the outside.
For the entire history of the Cleveland Browns, and that stretches to their days in the 1940’s as a part of the old All-America Football Conference, the team has played on these hallowed grounds on the shores of Lake Erie. The old Cleveland Municipal Stadium served as the longtime home for the Browns and the MLB Cleveland Indians, but age and lack of functionality took their toll on the old place.
And one of the most famous and iconic part of of the Browns’ experience, the end zone Dawg Pound, almost died with it. Or did it? For in 1999, when the new Cleveland Browns Stadium opened its doors, it came with the new Dawg Pound, and all the traditions associated with the Browns game day experience.
In January 2013, the Browns announced a naming rights deal with FirstEnergy, and the stadium has been renamed FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Cleveland Browns have one of the more interesting histories in professional sports. The original team was formed in 1945 and joined the NFL in 1950, where they won a championship that year. They also took titles in 1954, 1955, and 1964, but that was their heyday. After the NFL merged with the AFL, the Browns became poster boys for failure, losing heartbreaking playoff games and never making it to another championship game. The team shared Municipal Stadium (often referred to as the Mistake by the Lake) with the Cleveland Indians for 50 years.
In 1996, owner Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore, where they became the Ravens and won a Super Bowl in 2000. However, Modell’s move was highly controversial, and he faced several lawsuits. In order to expedite the move, he agreed to leave the intellectual property and history of the Browns to a trust, which would be kept for a future expansion team.
In 1999, Cleveland was granted a new franchise and they made Cleveland Browns Stadium, built on the site of Municipal Stadium, their new home. The Browns continued the legacy of futility, with only one playoff appearance in that time. Fortunately, their new football-only facility is among the best in the league, giving their hard-luck fans a great place to watch the team. In 2013, FirstEnergy bought the stadium naming rights and the stadium subsequently was renamed to its current moniker.
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