Unleashing the Potential: A Dome Stadium for the Cleveland Browns

What are the pros and cons of playing in a dome stadium in Cleveland for the Browns?
Cleveland Browns Stadium
Cleveland Browns Stadium / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

At the start of each season, it seems like Cleveland Browns fans are generally asking the same questions: Have we finally found the answer at quarterback? Will this guy stick around as our head coach? Is this the season that the Browns finally break through?

But as we get ready for the 2024 season, there’s a new question that’s on the front of Browns fans’ minds: Are they going to stay downtown or are they going to move out to Brook Park?

During the NFL owners’ meetings down in Orlando, the question was raised of what’s going to happen with the Browns’ stadium in the near future. Jimmy Watkins of cleveland.com explains:

"The Haslams see two paths… a full-scale makeover of the current stadium at its… lakefront location, [or] …a new domed stadium in Brook Park, which… would end Browns fans’ decades-long duel with mother nature."

The Browns have been at Cleveland Browns Stadium, formally known as FirstEnergy Stadium, since 1999 when they made their big return to the NFL after Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore three years prior. 

Playing off the shores of Lake Erie in an outdoor stadium gives the Browns a pretty big advantage. When the Floridian teams, other warm weather teams, or teams who play in a dome come to Cleveland to face the Browns late in the season, they have to deal with the wintery conditions which often get enhanced thanks to the lake effect.

However, that didn’t bother the Las Vegas Raiders or the New Orleans Saints in recent seasons, as both teams overcame bad and unusual weather conditions and went into the Dawg Pound and defeated the Browns.

Back in Week 8 of the 2020 season, the Raiders (3-3) came to FirstEnergy Stadium to take on the Browns (5-2) in nasty weather that consisted of rain, snow, sleet, and high winds. “The wind, measured from the west at 35 mph at kickoff, made it difficult for both quarterbacks to throw; affected every punt and kick; and forced the 12,000 fans to bundle up.”

It was such an odd combination of weather with a name fitting such strange conditions: graupel. Then, in Week 16 of the 2022 season, the Saints (5-9) came into the Dawg Pound to tangle with the Browns (6-8). The temperature was forecasted to be 11 degrees with 30 mph winds. With the wind chill, temperatures were minus-11 degrees, but it turned out to be colder than that as it was six degrees at kickoff.

Despite being a dome team, the Saints were able to overcome the odds and defeat the Browns 17-10. The Browns are supposed to have an advantage in these late November and December, cold and snowy weather games but it doesn’t always work out that way.

Dome Stadiums Have Major Advantages

For all the advantages of being a cold-weather team, dome stadium teams have advantages too. When the Lions hosted the LA Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Wildcard and Divisional Rounds, it was extremely loud inside Ford Field. Before this past season, the Lions’ last home playoff game was on January 8, 1994, at the end of the 1993 NFL season.

Since it had been such a long wait for Lions fans, there was extra energy inside Ford Field for the games against the Rams and the Bucs. Regardless of whether or not the Lions played indoors or outdoors, their fans were going to bring the passion and the energy. But because Ford Field is a domed stadium, that crowd was amplified even louder. I truly believe the crowd noise is what made the difference for the Lions in those two games.

The Browns could experience the same environment if they were to host a playoff game (or a big regular season game) in a domed stadium.

Looking across the country, it’s cities whose NFL teams play in a dome that are generally scheduling marquee events like the Men’s Final Four, WrestleMania, and the Super Bowl. This year’s Men’s Final Four was held at State Farm Stadium, which is a multi-purpose retractable roof stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Since the Men’s Final Four draws upwards of 70,000 fans, it has to be held in such a large venue. The Men’s Final Four was at NRG Stadium in Houston last year, the Caesars Superdome down in New Orleans in 2022, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy in 2021, and US Bank Stadium in 2019.

Super Bowl LVIII was held at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Super Bowl LVII was at State Farm Stadium, Super Bowl LVI was held at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, and Super Bowl LIX is going to be in New Orleans. WrestleMania 39 was at SoFi, WrestleMania 38 and 32 were at AT&T Stadium, and WrestleMania 34 and XXX were at the Superdome. Domed stadiums bring more events and crowds to their cities.

Dome is A Must if Cleveland Wants to Become A Major Cultural Hub

Cleveland has a recent history of hosting major events, most notably the 2019 MLB All-Star Game, the 2021 NFL Draft, and the 2022 NBA All-Star Game. From April 4-7, the city of Cleveland hosted the Women’s Final Four. On Aug. 3, 2024, WWE SummerSlam is coming to Cleveland, which will ironically be at the Browns’ stadium.

However, if Cleveland wants the opportunity to host the Super Bowl, Men’s Final Four, WrestleMania, and other major events like a Taylor Swift concert, which can’t come to town as it currently stands, the Browns need to tear down their current stadium and build a dome.

A colleague of mine recently floated a very interesting theory that perhaps the Haslams are using SummerSlam as a test to see how Browns Stadium holds up when a massive crowd descends upon it because, on Saturday, August 3, the venue will get a chance to see how it supports major events besides Browns games.

The stadium is already 25 years old, the concourses feel cramped when I’m walking through them, and it’s hard to get to the stadium. The Rolling Stones will come to Cleveland this summer too, putting the stadium to the test. The success or failure of these summer events could determine what kind of venue the Browns play in for years to come.

Although the Browns made the playoffs in ‘20 and 2024, they haven’t given the city a lot to cheer about since they made their grand return in ‘99. So it hasn’t really mattered, for the most part, whether they had a cold weather advantage or not.

Cities like Buffalo and Green Bay almost always have harsh wintery games late in the season due to Lambeau Field and Highmark Stadium being outdoor venues. However, Green Bay and Buffalo aren’t looking to host the marquee events, whereas Cleveland is trying to elevate its status as a cultural hub.    

The city of Cleveland has shown that it’s more than capable of hosting major events, both sports related and non-sports related. If the Browns were to build a new domed stadium, the city would have a stronger argument to host the likes of the Super Bowl, Men’s Final Four, WrestleMania, and major concerts, changing how the rest of the country sees Cleveland.

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