STADIUM DUDE’S NFL STADIUM RANK: #22
- Located: Cleveland, OH
- Opened: 1999
- Capacity: 67,431
- Weather: Uncomfortable (ranked 18th of 20 outdoor venues)
- Games attended: 3
- Last visited: 2021
Since coming back to the league, the Browns have stunk. FirstEnergy Stadium is in its fourth decade of existence, and has never hosted a playoff game.
But Browns fans are die-hards: the place continues to fill to close to capacity to watch mediocre football, often in bad weather (the 3rd worse in football). Other than a few knuckleheads, they’re good fans who know football, and are desperate to see a winner.
A Fine Structure, but…
The stadium itself, built on the site of old Municipal Stadium (a.k.a. The Mistake by the Lake) is a nice albeit unspectacular venue. It features three decks of orange seats (which felt a little cramped in the upper deck), 274 washrooms, wide concourses, good concessions and big scoreboards. Compared to stadiums of 30 years ago, it would be amazing. But even after a $125 million renovation, it’s just in line with other middle-tier NFL stadiums.
One cool feature: it was among the first venues to use facial recognition software as a way to expedite entry. Pre-register, then just stare at the camera in one of the select gates, and you and your party enter. It’s the easiest entry since ushers stopped tearing stubs off classic paper tickets. Way to go Brownies!
But when it comes to stadiums, oneupmanship is the name of the game. Despite opening in 1999, it’s already one of the NFL’s oldest, and there’s been talk about replacing it with a domed stadium.
A Tortured Fanbase Makes the Best of It
Recent moderate success in the Stefanski-era notwithstanding, a Browns game has likely meant a loss for the home team. Despite that, it’s a fun time.
The Browns don’t have an official parking lot, so everyone parks in local lots, spreading the tailgate around a little. With its location right on Lake Erie, some diehards even sailgate at a nearby marina, and others fire up grills on nearby jetties. This is especially impressive in the colder months as that wind can start to whip off the lake and make outdoor drinking a questionable choice. Yet Browns fans don some brown and orange cold-weather gear and carry on undeterred.
I’ve said that now that the Cubs have won the World Series, the fan base that would go most bonkers over of a championship is the Cleveland Browns’ (others considered here include the Maple Leafs, the Bills, the Lions and the Knicks). A home playoff game in this solid venue would be a good start.