April 18, 2014

Medina
Partly cloudy
48°F

Browns: Stadium will see minor improvements

BEREA — Major renovations to the former Cleveland Browns Stadium will not begin until after the 2013 season, but fans should experience minor improvements to their game-day experience this fall.

Browns president Alec Scheiner announced a series of changes Monday that are designed to make trips to FirstEnergy Stadium a more pleasant experience than it has been since opening in 1999.

“If you don’t listen to your fans, you’re just taking their own experiences and forcing them into play,” said Scheiner, who previously served as the Dallas Cowboys’ senior vice president. “We reached out and spoke with many of them in order to learn what we could do better. We want them to have a voice.

“We know we have a lot of work to do. This is just the beginning.”

The most noticeable change is an overhaul of the Browns’ stale game presentation, which has long been regarded as one of the worst in North American pro sports. It also has stuck out like a sore thumb to Cleveland fans, who have become accustomed to the Cavaliers’ award-winning entertainment package.

The Browns will have an on-field DJ spinning tunes before games, the music and scoreboard video selections will be updated, and player introductions will feature pyrotechnics and new video packages.

The team also has hired a drumline to perform at each home game, and will “have a couple of surprises on opening day” that Scheiner didn’t want to reveal just yet. Cleveland hosts the Miami Dolphins in its regular season opener on Sept. 8.

“Jimmy (Haslam III, owner) and Joe (Banner, CEO) have talked a lot about ‘fan experience’ — and all of this is about the ‘fan experience’,” he said. “We want to harness their energy and keep the passion.”

The Browns also want to alleviate the congestion at each entrance to the stadium, which has become an inconvenience as the NFL continues to increase its security standards.

A total of 20 turnstiles and 44 security screening lanes have been added, which Scheiner says will allow 4,000 more fans to enter the facility during any 15-minute span.

In order to assist with the process, the Browns have hired Contemporary Services Corporation — known for their bright yellow CSC Staff t-shirts — as their exclusive provider of crowd management services. Team spokesman Zak Gilbert confirmed that CSC has replaced Tenable Protective Services in the role.

The Browns’ team store also has been expanded and complemented by numerous merchandise kiosks throughout the stadium. An increased selection of products has been ordered, addressing another common customer complaint.

Two other aspects of the stadium experience are part of NFL-mandated programs that go into effect immediately.

A cell tower for Verizon customers has been added as part of the company’s four-year, $1 billion contract to stream live NFL games. Additionally, Scheiner said AT&T has upgraded its on-site tower, which should provide vastly improved service for all cell phone customers.

Though the NFL strongly encouraged its teams to have complete wi-fi capabilities installed for 2013, Scheiner said it is not in the team’s plans at this point.

Browns season ticket holders also will receive a small, transparent plastic bag to carry their belongings into the stadium. The league reduced the size and shape of purses and bags that fans are allowed to bring through the gates during the offseason.

“Our fans, historically, have not come into the stadium until right before the game starts,” Scheiner said. “We want them do that now, so we’ve giving them reasons to come in early and enjoy themselves.”

Haslam plans on spending $100 million to upgrade the stadium over the next two offseasons, but will not reveal specifics until later this year.

Quarterback quest

The Browns ran four goal-line offensive drills — all with 50 seconds on the pretend game clock — and converted on two of them for points.

Taking over on Cleveland’s 40-yard line, incumbent starting quarterback Brandon Weeden drove the first team for a game-winning, 43-yard field goal by Shayne Graham. Two completions to wide receiver Travis Benjamin set up the score.

Backup Jason Campbell, working in the same situation, tossed a 36-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jordan Norwood on third-and-10. Coach Rob Chudzinski also allowed kicker Brandon Bogotay to kick a 48-yard field goal, which he made.

The second scenario featured the Browns trailing by four points with no timeouts when taking over at their 38-yard line.

Weeden illegally called a timeout before being picked off by Chris Owens, while third-stringer Brian Hoyer was intercepted by Kent Richardson on a deflected pass at the goal line.

Brownie bits

Nose tackle Phil Taylor (calf) took part in team drills for the first time at training camp since 2011. He missed all of last year’s preseason activities after tearing his left pectoral. Ishmaa’ily Kitchen served as his backup.

• Owens worked with the first-team defense, opposite top cornerback Joe Haden, while Johnson Bademosi manned one of the safety spots.

• Linebacker Craig Robertson intercepted Weeden on a sideline route, continuing his strong camp.

• Offensive coordinator Norv Turner scolded tight end Gary Barnidge on two occasions, but the sixth-year pro bounced back by hauling in an over-the-shoulder pass from Campbell.

• Guard Jason Pinkston complained to the officials that defensive linemen Jabaal Sheard and Paul Kruger were illegally luring him to false start.

Injury update

Wide receiver Josh Gordon missed the majority of the 2½-hour practice after his patellar tendinitis flared up. Coach Rob Chudzinski was uncertain if the second-year pro will undergo an MRI, but said he wasn’t concerned about the injury.

Rookie safety Jamoris Slaughter (hamstring), running back Montario Hardesty (hamstring), safety Tashaun Gipson (shoulder), fullback Brock Bolen (calf), defensive end Desmond Bryant (back spasms), tackle Chris Faulk (knee), guard Oniel Cousins (ankle), and tackle Ryan Miller (concussion) did not practice.

Extra points

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will visit Browns training camp to attend a USA Football and Pop Warner youth football clinic on Thursday afternoon.

Former Cleveland running back Jamel White and wide receiver Steve Sanders will also be among the speakers, as is USA Football president Carl Peterson.

• The Browns’ over-under for wins this season has been established as six, according to offshore bookmaker Bovada.

• PGA Tour player Jason Dufner attended practice. The Northeast Ohio native was befriended by Weeden, whose home is located on a golf course in Oklahoma.

Contract Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.