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A repair bill too far

By Barry McBride

It was just two weeks after the Cleveland Browns requested, and got, $5.8 million in stadium repair money from the City of Cleveland that the Innerbelt Bridge project was pushed back ten years.

The Browns organization, once again, has an issue with timing.

Delays in replacing the old Innerbelt Bridge – nearing the end of its 50-year lifespan and with aging steel that prompted traffic restrictions last year – provides the potential for years of painful traffic routed through a shared bridge. It also rings the bell for some very old-fashioned political wrestling to take place here in the Plum City, which is already hitting the radio airwaves.

There’s very little in common between the two projects. The funding comes from different sources, and there’s a huge disparity in scale. It’s unfair to compare the two, but they will be compared, with rich NFL owners asking for city money contrasted with the working class folks who have to cross the inner belt bridge to get to their jobs every single day.

An element which makes the comparison even more unfair is the amount of money that the team had already spent out of its own pockets to improve the stadium. Fans may not remember, but there were endless complaints early in the new Stadium’s history about the number of ramps fans had to ascend in order to get to upper deck seats.

As an upper deck season ticket holder during those years, I remember it well. Ramp after ramp after ramp, turn after turn after turn.

The Lerners essentially spent their own money to retrofit escalators into the stadium. They were thanked at the time, and fans were grateful, but these sort of gestures are often forgotten long afterwards.

Now, mostly what folks remember about that time is that there was a lot of bad football. Then they remember there’s still a lot of bad football.

Something else to remember: Browns fans have a stadium that’s called Cleveland Browns Stadium. Not PNC Stadium. Not Doritos Stadium. Not MBNA Stadium. The Lerner family has passed up easy revenue to be had by slapping a name on the ballpark, money that would not have relieved the city of being asked to foot the repay bill.

It would be wrong, in my opinion, for the stadium repair bill to be turned into a football itself and somehow tied to the Innerbelt project. Like every Cleveland resident who has to go through downtown, I’m disappointed on the delay on the Innerbelt project. But it wasn’t due to the Browns that it was delayed, and years of bad football shouldn’t make us forget some of the stadium money the Lerners have invested, and passed up, on the way to 2012.


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