by Sam Allard
"Rob Chudzinski" and "Norv Turner" may not be the only — nor the most exciting — new names in Cleveland next football season. Rumors have been circulating that the Browns have struck a naming rights deal with Akron-based electric utility FirstEnergy Corp.
Owner Jimmy Haslam indicated when he took over the franchise in August that selling the stadium's name was on the table, and that means big money for him. Crain's Cleveland Business reported some of the heftier contracts in recent years:
According to the Bloomberg Businessweek report, the Steelers' agreement with H.J. Heinz Co. is for 20 years and $57 million. Other naming rights deals of note: Baltimore, 15 years, $75 million; Detroit, 20 years, $40 million; Indianapolis, 20 years, $122 million; Philadelphia, 21 years, $139 million; St. Louis, 12 years, $31.8 million.
The Browns have not confirmed the deal, but a FirstEnergy representative said, mid-chuckle, that an announcement may be coming tomorrow. Additionally, NewsChannel5 reported that a source who claims to be connected with the Wilson Football plant in Ada, Ohio, said that the company made 60 footballs for the Browns with the name “FirstEnergy Field at Cleveland Browns Stadium” on them.
Regional marketing firms will now assemble their masterminds to wrest from "FirstEnergy" something mildly more threatening or (at the very least) catchy. From their perspective, the presence of "Energy" is probably a welcome challenge — it opens up the field to some unorthodox, sci-fi inspired imagery. E.g. Those Bengals will be quivering in their jockstraps the moment they set foot in THE ATOM / THE ENERGY CAGE / THE STATIC DOME / THE MATRIX / etc.
Among the locals, it'll always be the "FirstEnergy Factory of Sadness."