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Changing times

January 15, 2013 - Mike McLain
The Browns will announce today an agreement to sell naming rights to Cleveland Browns stadium to First Energy Corporation, ending a stretch of 14 seasons in which the stadium didn't have corporate affiliation.

One of the stipulations of the late Al Lerner when he was awarded ownership in 1998 was to not sell naming rights, going against the norm in the NFL with other new stadiums. Al's son Randy continued the tradition when he assumed ownership following Al's death in 2002.

The finances of the deal haven't been released, but the Browns will definitely bring in considerable cash. Deals other teams have with stadiums vary greatly. One of the most lucrative is the 32-year, $320 million deal the Houston Texans have with Reliant Stadium.

The Lerner family resisted the temptation to bargain for naming rights to highlight the importance of fans that fought for the return of the franchise with its colors and nickname after the old Browns moved to Baltimore following the 1995 season.

Current owner James Haslam III isn't bound by those same principles. He hinted at securing naming rights shortly after announcing his plans to purchase the team last summer, saying that it's the way of the league.

It's doubtful that fans will have a problem with the move in large numbers. After suffering through 12 losing seasons in the 14 years since expansion, their only concern is with fielding a winning team.


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