Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
To Clevelanders, football has always been played within sight of Lake Erie, often with the bitter northwestern winds throwing sleet in one’s face and turning one’s nose, ears and chin to ice.
The forerunner to Cleveland Browns Stadium was Cleveland Municipal Stadium, a cavernous dual purpose football and baseball stadium that resided on the shore of the Lake from its dedication in 1931 until its demolition in 1996. The facility opened with a Max Schmeling heavyweight title bout, hosted the first Cleveland Indians game a year later in 1932, and did not host a football game until 1936, with the Cleveland Rams. The Rams departed by 1937, and in 1946 the Cleveland Browns began nearly a full 50 years of consecutively play at the old stadium. Accommodating 81,000 fans for football and over 74,0000 for baseball, Cleveland Municipal Stadium was the one of the last of the giant older generation stadiums.
Once Art Modell took the city’s NFL franchise to Maryland, renaming the team the Baltimore Ravens, in 1996, the city negotiated with the NFL to re-establish a Browns team in Cleveland. As part of the eventual arrangement, the city demolished Cleveland Municipal Stadium (dumping pieces of its carcass into Lake Erie to create artificial underwater reefs, and laid plans for the new Cleveland Browns Stadium. Enlisted as designers of the new stadium were HOK Sport of Kansas City (now known as Populous). Opened in 1999, the new facility sports many of the amenities of recent stadia and arenae: a cutting-edge exterior appearance, multiple large LED video boards, plentiful suites and club seats, relatively close seating with good sightlines, several club and restaurant options, and a wide variety of food and merchandise concessions. As with the older stadium, however, the biggest drawbacks remain ease of access and affordable parking.
Having a seating capacity of 73,000+, Cleveland Browns Stadium is situated on roughly the same 31 acres of lakefront land occupied by the former stadium. The area ringing the Stadium has become known as the North Coast Harbor, and now boasts a number of other significant recent developments: The Great Lakes Science Center immediately east of the Stadium; the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum just east of that; and Voinovich Park with its cruise ship docks still farther east. Access to all of these lakefront assets is provided by the Regional Transit Authority’s Waterfront Line of light rail service, which wends its way north from The Terminal Tower at Public Square, through the Flats along the banks of the Cuyahoga River, to the lakefront. The terminus of the Waterfront Line is at the East Ninth Street station, several hundred yards south of the public entrance to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.