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 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".
A lot of attention was given to making the food experience here a good one. Themed stands include the "Dawg Pound Deli" offering pastrami, roast beef and corned beef sandwiches among its offerings. "Browns Bistro" serves up deep dish pizza. A huge beer garden on the lake side of the stadium, called the Grill at the Gridiron, offers drink service, and grilled dogs, brats and burgers, with an outdoor patio and plenty of flat screen TVs to watch the action. Garlic fires and pierogies are two of the other notable treats on the menu here.
The team hasn't won a championship in like, forever. They have had several bouts of irrelevance in the last decade. Yet Cleveland fans pretty much pack the place, and the passion throughout the city is pretty palpable on game day. The Dawg Pound is not your old configuration, as the old digs were right on top of the end zone and very cramped and intimate. In this venue, nonetheless a large east end zone makes for some zany antics and it's a great scene to be a part of or watch from a distance.
They call this the "Lakefront District", a still emerging development area which, in addition to the stadium, also includes the Science Center right next door and the famed Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. There are maritime style warehouses adjacent, complete with mammoth parking lots for tailgating, and youth sports fields, and all are connected via pedestrian and highway bridges to the downtown core. This area is still very much a work in progress, with more coming down the road.
Former Cleveland Brown, Bob Golic has his sports bar and grille within walking distance on the corner of West Sixth Street and West Lakeside Avenue.
Give the fans a round of applause for supporting their Cleveland Browns through thick and thin. They enjoy plenty of sellouts here. The tailgate scene is also robust with many of the lots filled well before game time and a festive atmosphere, which also spills into the streets of the city, with many merchandise and vending carts on street corners, and most of downtown's bistros and bars open on game day. Division rivals Pittsburgh and Cincinnati come to town each year, and their fan bases just add to the colorful experience when they are here.
Getting to the venue is a snap - Highway access off of I-90 and Highway 2 will take you to the many parking lots which surround the stadium. There are also plenty of ramps and surface lots downtown at varying prices depending on distance, and early arrivals might snag a free spot on the street, as meters aren't monitored on weekends. The local light rail system (RTA) has a station right outside the stadium (West 3rd St station), with stops throughout the downtown core.
Parking runs $25 in the stadium cash lots, although paid lots running from $5-$20 are plentiful throughout downtown. The cheapest tickets run as low as $22 in the corners of the upper deck, a screaming bargain in this day and age of the NFL. Concession prices are pretty decent (draft $6.50, hot dogs $4.50). This is one of the places in the NFL where you can enjoy a game day with the family on a budget.
Points always to the Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame, a nice exhibit set up in the 100 level concourse which is also open on game days. I have to also add an extra for the view. The stadium corners are designed as such that they are open to the outside, so depending on where one sits, there are breathtaking views of the downtown skyline or the lake. Last extra point - large LED boards on the outside of the stadium, which offer a countdown clock to kickoff. They are great to have if you're outside tailgating and want to time your walk.
If you come early in the season you may be able to also catch the Indians at Progressive Field. Later in the season you can have the opportunity to catch the NBA Cavaliers or Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL at Quicken Loans Arena. If you like college basketball, then you may want to see the Cleveland State Vikings play at the Wolstein Center downtown as well. There are numerous opportunities for a sports-packed visit to Cleveland.
Cleveland has had its knocks as the "Mistake By The Lake", but it is a great and passionate sports town. They play the "Hang on Sloopy" song here, and fans show their state pride by chanting O-H-I-O in unison, a nice touch for long suffering fans. The city hums and thrives and is a great place to make a weekend and enjoy the nightlife, attractions and many restaurants that make the city a great place to visit.
**Andrew Kulyk is a stadium travel expert who has seen games in every current venue in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB. Follow all of Andrew's journeys at the Ultimate Sports Road Trip.
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 CafĂ© 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.
1213 West Sixth Street
Cleveland, OH 44113
629 Euclid Ave
Cleveland, OH 44114