BEREA, Ohio – Until they start winning, the Browns are doing all they can to keep Cleveland fans happy and entertained.
On Monday, team president Alec Scheiner unveiled a five-point plan to enhance the game-day experience for fans, starting this season. After getting feedback from fans, the team prioritized improvements to FirstEnergy Stadium. Starting during the exhibition season, fans will have easier access to the lakefront stadium, improved mobile service, upgraded team stores with more merchandise and new game-day rituals, including splashier pregame introductions, a drum line and a disc jockey on the field before games and in a booth during them.
Fans have long complained about long lines at the stadium's gates. To help alleviate the problem, the Browns have installed 20 new turnstiles and will designate 44 additional security screening chutes to quicken the flow of fans in before kickoff. Scheiner said the improvements should allow 4,000 more fans to enter every 15 minutes.
Also, the Browns are sending their season-ticket holders transparent bags to conform with the NFL's new security policy on carry bags.
"The fans have talked to us," Scheiner said at a news conference. "They've been pretty clear that when they get to the stadium, it takes too long to get into the stadium. So we're going to fix that."
The Browns' focus on improved access will start with their exhibition opener on Aug. 8 against St. Louis. Scheiner said other initiatives won't be "rolled out" until the regular-season opener Sept. 8 against Miami.
Scheiner, who has been with the Browns for seven months after previously working for the Dallas Cowboys, said the team has hired Contemporary Services Corporation to focus on fan safety and their overall game-day experience.
"We want to harness the energy of our fans so you think of different stadiums around the league where it's really passionate, but it's a safe environment," he said. "That's what we want to replicate. I think we've got a good atmosphere for football games."
Spotty or sometimes no cell-phone service has been a problem for the past few seasons, and the Browns believe the installation of a new tower from Verizon and an upgrade of an AT&T tower will have a significant impact.
"We think this will make a big difference for people getting on their phone, getting text messages, getting phone calls, surfing the Internet," he said. "And we'll keeping looking at this and if we need more technology in the stadium then in the near future we will keep investing. "
The Browns want to create a home-field advantage for a team that has made the playoffs just once since 1999, and reward the league's "best fans."
Scheiner said the hiring of Kevin Griffin, who previously worked for the Seattle Seahawks and the MLS Seattle Sounders, in a newly created position of vice president of fan experience is further proof of owner Jimmy Haslam's commitment to improve the Browns.
"We know we have the best fans," Scheiner said. "We want to have the best home-field advantage so we are talking about pre-game introductions, rituals, video and audio."
Scheiner said one of the Browns' biggest challenges is to make the experience in the stadium as satisfying for fans as if they stayed home and watched on TV.
"We have to figure out the proper balance between getting people the information that they want, that they can get at home but also making it about our game, about our team and about our product," he said.
Scheiner said the Cowboys experienced some of the same issues facing the Browns.
"I don't look at them as problems as much as just opportunities, and when we built the new stadium in Dallas, we had all new technology to play with and once again, we had to just revisit what it meant to be a Cowboys fan."