Report: Art Modell was offered stadium in Cleveland

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A week after the passing of former Browns and Ravens owner Art Modell, a new report disputes Modell’s claim that he moved the team from Cleveland to Baltimore because he couldn’t get a new stadium in Ohio.

Mark Naymik of the Cleveland Plain Dealer calls the late Modell a liar in a report based on the accounts of two former city officials.  One, a former Cleveland city council president whose “memory for detail is hazy,” says that the powers-that-be wanted to build a football stadium at the Gateway sports complex, but that Modell rejected the overture “years before leaving.”  Former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan said that an informal offer was made.

Read the entire article, and perhaps you’ll agree with our (or at least my) assessment that something stinks about the timing of the report — and about Naymik’s clumsy explanation for its delayed publication.  Naymik writes that “Modell already was viewed by many as the worst villain Cleveland ever saw,” and that “knowing Modell was offered a stadium deal and still left would have only further damaged our psyche at the very time the city’s football fans needed to move on.”

I’d likely disagree with that reasoning, if I could understand it.

If there was any real merit to this story, it would have been reported before Modell died.  Why sit on it for 17 years, when it would have so completely eviscerated Modell’s pretext for leaving?

It’s almost as if the story specifically was timed to pour water on the possibility of Cleveland letting bygones be bygones with a man who is now gone for good.  If anyone in Cleveland utters at any point in the coming days, weeks, or months that maybe it’s time to forgive Modell, Naymik’s article will provide ample fodder for a conclusive rebuttal based on the brand-new notion that Modell wasn’t being truthful when he said he had never been offered a brand-new stadium.

In all fairness, Modell should have gotten a chance to respond to that accusation while he was still alive.

43 responses to “Report: Art Modell was offered stadium in Cleveland

  1. I applaud Art for taking initative and leaving that town. Absolutely no team in that city will ever be a success. If LeBron couldn’t do it in an easy sport like Basketball, the football side of things can forget about it. They decided Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson was better over RGIII. The NFL should do Cleveland a favor and relocate the team. Factory of sadness for all of eternity indeed.

  2. If there’s no proof then they shouldn’t say anything because it can’t be refuted by the other party

  3. The curse of Modell is over. The era of Haslam is upon us. The past is history.

    Here we go brownies here we go!!

  4. What is the reasoning behind stirring the pot of ill will over this? Let the fans in Cleveland have their misery. The man is dead, the team moved over 17 years ago, they have a team now. LET IT GO. I can understand their feelings but, I have to wonder, If the Fans in Cleveland put as much effort in rooting for the Browns as much as they do for their hatred of Mr. Modell they might just win a few more games. This serves no purpose other than to keep the fire burning. I can not help but think of how the current Browns feel when they are saying “Hey uhhhh… Hey, We’re here”!!! and the Fans care more about the past.

  5. Big Surprise…leave it to Cleveland to accuse a deceased man of something he cannot confirm, nor deny. I am a Steeler fan, so I am not the biggest supporter of Art…but C’mon Cleveland…Even Howard the Duck thought you city was a dump

  6. Seems pretty sackless to “blame it on the dead guy” who can’t defend himself.

    Zero class by Naymik — he waits until a man dies and has no voice, to then launch an attack.

    Wow. That is about as classless as it gets.

    Steeler Fan who most definitely liked and respected Art Modell

    P.S. That Naymik clown should be ashamed of himself. What a pile of crap.

  7. Hate to speak ill of the deceased but since Florio has chosen to be the family spokesman, I’d like a minute for rebuttal. Modell’s problems in Cleveland had NOTHING to do with a stadium. He was a lousy businessman. Plain and simple. Case closed. He ended up being Judas and sold (or in his case, moved) his toy for 30 pieces of silver.

  8. “I applaud Art for taking initative and leaving that town. Absolutely no team in that city will ever be a success. ”

    Uh, the city isn’t the problem. The fact that the Browns have hired talent evaluators who can’t evaluate talent is the problem.

    “If LeBron couldn’t do it in an easy sport like Basketball, the football side of things can forget about it.”

    Uh, the NBA is a rigged league barely a step above the WWE. Not sure you want to use that to help make your case.

  9. Which is exactly why you shouldn’t have done such a disservice to the guy’s memory by reposting this crap. Cleveland has the most butt-hurt fans in the history of sport… Maybe a tie with Green Bay?

  10. This is not new information, though it may be the first time it was widely disseminated. It was fairly common knowledge in Cleveland at the time the Browns left that Modell was offered a new stadium in the same area as Jacobs Field and Gund Arena (or whatever it’s called now). He rejected the proposal, though I can’t remember why. This was in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. It never made any sort of blip in the national news the first time around, but many Clevelanders at the time knew about it.

    Modell moved the team in 1995 because he had run the team into the ground: it was $50 million or so (as I recall) in debt, and Baltimore and/or the state of Maryland were willing to assume some or all of this liability as well as build the new stadium in the Camden Yards area.

    A Cleveland new stadium might have provided him some new revenue streams, but the $50 million was the inciting factor. I don’t recall if Cleveland was offered a chance to match the deal, but I seem to recall that they couldn’t afford the new stadium in ’95, so doubtful they could have just forked over $50 million for no return other than keeping the failing team in town.

    voiceofreason, you’re entitled to your opinion of course, but the Browns were willing to pay slightly more than the Redskins for the Rams pick. Cleveland offered the same set of picks for the Rams #2, but Cleveland’ #1 this year was higher than Washington’s. Why the Rams passed was a mystery. I seem to recall PFT articles about Holmgren being pretty pissed about it.

    And when did basketball become “an easy sport”? I imagine some folks would disagree with that one. I’d also imagine that the Browns faithful, who make sure that stadium is packed for each and every home game, would have something to say about your comments as well.

  11. Florio, you need to talk to Tony Grossi, this is all information that we in Cleveland new, hell the city wanted to build a dome downtown, near the current Gateway Complex, and Art nixed that. He wanted to build a stadium on property he owned in Strongsville, a suburb about 30 miles South of Downtown, so he could keep the revenue from the stadium. Art had tons of opportunities, he was a bad business man, and was hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.
    He made bad financial decisions, and never once came public to the people of Cleveland of his “need” for a new stadium, had he said to us “I need money from the fans/taxpayers to help me build a stadium or else I will be forced to move the team,” the voters would have approved a levy/tax by over 70% . Oh that’s right we did, a month after he moved the damn team. Get a clue Florio, and for all you ripping on Cleveland, we don’t care. Come visit here and say all your crap, and see how well you do. Go Browns!!!

  12. Of course they offered him a stadium. Why wouldn’t they? Cleveland is a football town. They wanted to have all three teams playing nearby, after bringing the Cavs in from Richfield. Just ask yourself what the most likely scenario is: did Cleveland shut out it’s favorite team from a project that could have brought millions more to the city, or did Modell (the man who fired Paul Brown) throw a hissy fit that other sports were getting a little attention and decide to take his ball to a richer friend’s house?

    Now if you excuse me, I have to go work on my “Zombie Art Modell” costume for this Halloween.

  13. This story was out before Modell moved. He didn’t want to be part of Gateway (which built new baseball and basketball complexes) because he owned the concessions company at Municipal Stadium and would not at Gateway. I don’t see the use in bringing this up right now, though.

  14. Good thing AM didn’t actively petition for a new team in Cleveland, effectively becoming a crucial voice in the NFL being brought back to Cleveland. Yea that truly never happened. Definitely shouldn’t praise him for that. And it’s his fault management has made terrible moves ever since their second coming. And AM made Lebron leave too.

  15. This is old news. The new stadium was already on the ballot before Modell committed to leaving. It passed and that’s what the browns play in today. So yes, Modell was offered a stadium. Heck, he got his stadium but left town before it was built.

    A lot had also been going on between Modell and the city politicians for years and Modell even admitted in a radio interview about 8 years ago that he was in too deep financially and that’s why he moved to Baltimore. Baltimore’s deal bailed him out way more than just building a stadium in Cleveland did.

    I’m a lifelong Browns fan and I can’t bring myself to hate Modell. (Don’t expect me to be visit his grave either.) He left to save himself and not to hurt others. It’s been 17 years and the Browns struggles today have nothing to do with Art. Overall, Browns fans have let it go. But letting go doesn’t mean we have to support him being in the HOF or sit quietly when people spew crap that isn’t true or bash Cleveland fans.

  16. Gorman is pretty close on the financials. Art Modell was horribly upside down with the debt. Mr. Modell was a very good man for things he did around the city. The charity work and goodness of heart was tremendous. It can never truly be denied. He is the man who helped the league accumulate the windfalls of cash from television that turned it into one of the most powerful businesses in the country. He could not run his own team. He was the president of the Stadium Corporation with which the Browns signed their leases. The leases he felt kept him from making money. In the end, he moved to cover his own debt. He claimed to take out a second mortgage on his home to pay Andre Rison’s bonus money. He ended up selling the Ravens to again get out from under debt. All the money he made for the league and had so much trouble keeping ho’s own organizations afloat. It’s a shame. I am a Browns fan and I really liked Art Modell for all he really did for the city of Cleveland, excluding football. He was a good man and should be remembered for doing good things most will never know about. It’s a real shame he had to make the poor decisions he did in order to save his beloved team. He should have just asked for help.

  17. If you can believe wikapedia, read the history of the gateway complex. Modell was on board for a dome stadium in the 1980s initiated by the greater Cleveland Dome Stadium Corporation. The ballot to fund the stadium was voted down by 2-1. Another project to be funded by a sin tax, never got out of the drafting room. So yes. It appears he was informally offered a stadium while Forbes was in office. Forbes hazy memory confused the failed ballot with Modell rejecting the offer.

    After the ballot failed, a new group with new leadership created the gateway complex. By that time Forbes wasn’t even on the council, so his hazy memory was a memory of something which he didn’t have a first hand account.
    Forbes was also an opportunist politician who made millions using his political power.

  18. he brings it up now because now that Modell has died there is all kinds of hall of fame talk. He rightfully wants to make sure that does not happen.

  19. After the move to Baltimore, the popular byline (in the Baltimore area) was that Cleveland had failed to keep them there.

    It’s no crime to be a mediocre businessman but to blame your failures on others isn’t exactly honorable behavior. Modell never waivered from that tune. Even after he later sold the team in financial desperation.

    As for the people urging the Browns fans to get over it; I dare you to strike up a conversation on Bob Irsay with any Marylander. [cover the ears of any nearby children]

    Baltimore laid claim to martyrdom after the Colts left (also for a better deal) and it continues today. Every time Manning broke one of Unitas’ records it was always prefaced with “well that doesn’t count because they are the Indianapolis Colts”.

    The Baltimore Colts’ martyrdom rang especially hollow when after years of screaming how unfair the move was and how low could a city stoop to get a team. Then (of course) they replicated the same actions as Indianapolis when they enticed Modell to Baltimore.

  20. The support (or lack there of) from the city of Cleveland and its fans was not the reason for Modell leaving. I get so tired of reading that tripe. He left because (as others have mentioned) he’d run the business into the ground with horrible management.

    It also gets old hearing it implied that things were suddenly rosy when he moved the show to Baltimore. He screwed that situation up financially too and had to take on partners and was losing money in that shiny new stadium too. He was a huge factor in the early development of the NFL but he ran his franchise horribly for over 30 years and screwed the fans and city of Cleveland completely. His legacy of the last 30 years was so bad that it makes no sense why people are so shocked that he isn’t lauded universally and why his overall legacy is a mixed bag at best.

    RIP, let it go, but enough of the revisionist history and spin. It’s more than a little irksome to people who actually know what happened and encourages the disrespect and smack talk to continue.

  21. Modell will never be forgiven in Cleveland just as the Irseys will never be forgiven in Baltimore. Rightly so. Neither Modell or Irsey should ever be in the HOF in my opinion.

  22. This isn’t new news. Just because something is being reiterated because of recent events, doesn’t mean this just occurred. They’ve been saying this since before the team moved. Whether it’s true or not, really doesn’t matter. Art moved the team. Doesn’t matter how or why, he just did. Thanks for continuing to stir the pot on a dead issue.

  23. I won’t pretend to be an expert on this issue, and maybe Modell DID have a legit, even amazing offer on the table to stay in Cleveland. But to put this out there after the man is dead and can neither confirm nor deny it is sackless. Modell is undeniably one of the most influential people in the history of the greatest sport in the world, and should probably be in the HOF, even IF the move to Baltimore “tarnishes his legacy.” (Not saying it does or doesn’t.) @ Jack Gorman, voiceofreasonsays is a bit of a dolt, though I hate to say that about a fellow Redskins fan. But the story with the RG3 trade is that the Rams told CLE and WAS to make their very best, final offers at the same time to avoid a bidding war and move on with the evaluation process. The teams both offered 3 1st-rounders, with the Browns having 2 of those in this year’s draft, #4 and #22 (from ATL in the Julio Jones trade) and one in 2013, and the Redskins with #6 this year and a #1 in 2013 and 2014. But the Skins included a 2012 2nd -rd pick (#39, used to draft CB Janoris Jenkins, not bad!). When the Rams called the Browns to tell them they had been outbid, Holmgren said he would throw in the Browns’ 2012 #2. But Fisher stayed true to his word and held to the deal with WAS. I doubt CLE thought Richardson and Weeden were better than RG3, (at least I hope not,) but WAS showed more gumption. And, so far at least, the Skins look very smart to go for broke.

  24. I do not have dog in this fight and frankly I don’t give a crap about either Cleveland or Baltimore. However, absolutely Modell had been offered a stadium in Cleveland. Look it up. Now, wether it was as good as Baltimore’s I don’t know, but don’t tell us he never was offered a stadium deal in Cleveland so he “had” to move to Baltimore. It’s not a sin to want the best deal. We all do it. Just man-up and say “Baltimore made a better offer”. Gesh!

  25. In the book titled “Fumble: Art Model, the Brown and the Move.” Tey author of the book, who was the VP of Stadium Corporation a Modell owned company that ran operations at the old Municipal Stadium where the indians and Browns palyed, stated that the city did offer Modell a domed stadium back in 86. He did turn it down because the stadium was to be shared with the Indians. Modell then told city council that you build the Indians a stadium and I am perfectly happy where I’m at. The Browns sold out one of the largest stadiums at the time every week and there was a 20 years waiting list for season tickets. He moved the team because he was a horrible business man. Nothing else!

  26. excellent job by the author to stir the pot even more in a city filled with already bitter fans.I swear the day LeBron does they’ll run articles claiming he once pissed on a dying orphan wearing a Cavs jersey.Get over it,you have your football team and you’ve had them back for quite awhile!Try being LA.

  27. I’m from C Town and remember going through this time. Modell had talked about needing a new stadium before he left. I think there was discussion of the Browns joining the Gateway complex, but many people in town also didn’t want the stadium to move from the lake front.

    It certainly was a mess and handled wrong, but I agree with those who say the timing of this article was poor. That’s exactly what I thought when I read it.

    And to those who say this is a crappy city, we live around some of the best health care in the world, enjoy a relatively low cost of living, have an awesome metro-parks system, great blue collar and white collar people, passionate sports fans and a collective attitude that if you take us on we’ll kick your A$$.

    It is a great place to live and we get tired of hearing that it sucks. It doesn’t. I’m very proud to have made a life here.

    And yes, it would be nice to win a freakin championship at some point!

  28. dennychimes says: Sep 13, 2012 9:28 PM
    I can understand their feelings but, I have to wonder, If the Fans in Cleveland put as much effort in rooting for the Browns as much as they do for their hatred of Mr. Modell they might just win a few more games.


    You know I never thought if I cheered more or rooted more that the play calling would get better, the WR’s would catch the ball more, the offense would score a TD at some point during the game. WOW!!! I’m gonna give that a try this weekend.

  29. Only one NFL team is owned by its fans – the Green Bay Packers. All the others are a business enterprise owned by very wealthy persons. They can do as they please with their business, including locating them wherever they please.
    Does it matter which business enterprise you root for?
    Will we see the day when one of the teams becomes the Beijing Bengal Tigers? Wealthy persons there may make a better offer.

  30. You know really, they got to keep the name, keep the history, and only had to go without a team for 3 seasons. I can certainly understand how those would have been a rough and bitter 3 seasons for the city and the fans, but they got their team back in ’99 – isn’t it MORE than enough time to let it go already? Even most Baltimore fans no longer really hold a grudge about the Colts leaving, and we had to go without a team for 12 full years *and* we lost the name and history of our former team to boot! Cleveland whines about Modell like a sad, middle-aged woman who can’t let go of a guy that dumped her 2 decades previous.

  31. I wish i could be as bad of a businessman as Art was…

    (its funny how people say that, but he was a great example of a rags to riches story, and the American Dream)

  32. msb360 says:
    Sep 13, 2012 11:10 PM
    Now I see why Cleveland leads the country in Suicides.

    Actually Las Vegas does moron. Cleveland isn’t even in the top 15. Pittsburgh is though! Shocker!

  33. hmink96 says:
    Sep 14, 2012 12:59 PM
    I wish i could be as bad of a businessman as Art was…

    (its funny how people say that, but he was a great example of a rags to riches story, and the American Dream)


    It’s funny how people can hear the truth but choose to believe something else.

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