Cleveland: Haslam meets with city council

6:50 PM, Sep 19, 2012   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- Jimmy Haslam III had a formal introduction to Cleveland City Council Wednesday morning, a first for the Browns ownership.

Haslam stressed the deal is not done yet, but said if all goes well, the NFL should sign off Oct. 16. Haslam made an offer to buy the Browns for $1 billion in July.

Haslam introduced himself to council members in a 45 minute session Wednesday.

Council members also asked Haslam dozens of questions about his future involvement in the city, development in Cleveland and team and stadium changes.

"I've been overwhelmed by the friendliness of the people, and candidly, very impressed as a business person by everything you all have going on in this community," he said. "Whether it be the downtown, convention center, obviously everything that is being talked about on the lake front. I want to congratulate you. That doesn't happen easily, and obviously there's good leadership in the city."

Among dozens of questions Haslam answered, several council members asked about changes to the stadium and its use, including the possibility of a retractable roof.

Haslam mentioned that he plans to have three of the best stadium architects in the country evaluate Cleveland Browns Stadium to look at how it can best be changed or adapted. He said he'd like to see the stadium used in a variety of ways.

"You'd be crazy not to talk to all three of them, get their ideas about the stadium. We are completely open minded," said Haslam.

"We want to provide really two things. One, a great experience for our fans at a Browns game. But I think secondly, and I assume this is what everybody in this room is interested in, we want to use that facility as much as we possibly can."

"We want to use it more than we can now. So anything that helps us do that, I'm certainly not at all saying we're going to do that, but we'll certainly take a look at it," he said in response to a question from Councilman Michael Polensek who represents Ward 11.

"We need year round opportunities, and with the present facility, we're not going to get that," said Polensek, who hopes a winter-friendly facility could mean more jobs, more events in Cleveland's future.

Haslam also confirmed that he plans on looking at selling naming rights for the stadium. He said that decision would be made after the current season ends.

But mostly, council members seem to want what Browns fans do -- wins.

"I can't guarantee it, all I'll guarantee is that we'll work extremely hard to bring a winning team to the Browns," he said.

"I felt pressure to win before. Having been here, I really feel pressure to win," said Haslam with a laugh. "When someone writes, when they write a story that says that we might be the best thing to happen to the Browns since Jim Brown, that's saying a lot."

"My wife read that to me last night. She said, 'What do you think?' I said, 'I think we better work hard to make this work.' We're really excited to be part of things here, and hopefully that shows."

Haslam says you'll see more of him soon as he and his wife Dee will move to Cleveland at part-time in October.

"I promise you, we'll be involved in the community meaning, ourselves, our family. But we'll also encourage our players and our coaches to be involved too, because I think it's important. And I also think it's good for them, candidly, to remember where they came from. What life's really about, because it's easy for these guys to get a little isolated from the real world."

He says what happens on the field will be his first priority, but second, he says community.

"We understand we're partners, okay? We understand it's in both our interests to work together," he said, addressing council members. "We're going to do everything we can to make that a good partnership, okay? And...for about the fifth time, I understand the importance of winning. Okay?" he said.

He also addressed questions about lake front development, the upcoming Cleveland Schools levy and changes to his role at Pilot Flying J.

His family's company, one of the nation's largest privately held, hired Pepsi executive John Compton as CEO last week. Haslam will move into the chairman position, which he says will allow him to spend more time in Cleveland.



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