Columbus business leaders, via the city's chamber of commerce, Columbus Partnership
, are asking for $5 million from the state's 2016-2017 capital budget to pay for an athletic facility that would host the Cleveland Browns' summer training camp.
Negotiations between the Browns and Columbus officials have been ongoing for some time, but the request, which the Plain Dealer's
Brent Larkin excoriated in a column published Thursday
, was framed to highlight the facility's community benefits.
"The Athletic Practice and Training Facility will serve as a backdrop for collegiate athletic teams and community youth programs to utilize throughout the year," the Columbus Partnership document reads. "It will also attract professional athletic teams and franchises to our region."
Larkin called the language underhanded and was outraged that all Ohio taxpayers (including Clevelanders) should have to foot the bill for the move from training camp's current location in Berea.
He even suggested that if the funding is approved, local taxpayers might repeal the Sin Tax — we ought to anyway — and abandon political leaders who support the deal.
Message received by House Majority Whip Mike Dovila:
Berea Mayor Cyril Kleem told Scene
in a phone interview Thursday that the situation's not as devastating for Berea as Larkin may have made it seem. There's often a confusion between "training camp" and Browns headquarters, he said.
"The headquarters are staying in Berea," said Kleem. "They've agreed to stay through the 2028 season and they've been very open with us about the possibility of moving training camp."
Kleem said that though he'd "obviously prefer" if training camp stayed in Berea, he wouldn't classify the potential relocation as "a crisis."
"We're still pulling in about $3 million per year in income tax with the headquarters, and ever since the training camp moved from two-a-days to one-a-day in the mornings, we don't see as much economic development from having it here," Kleem said. "It's a nice draw, but it's not huge."
To Larkin, Kleem estimated that Berea stood to lose about $40,000 per year in income tax revenue should the training camp move elsewhere.
Kleem told Scene
that he hasn't formulated an opinion on the funding mechanism for the Columbus facility — "the first time I heard about it was from Brent Larkin," Kleem said — but stressed that Berea has had a very good relationship with the Browns and says, in general, that a pro team having its training camp someplace other than its home town isn't unusual.
"A lot of people want to believe that Berea's in a bad situation with the Browns," Kleem said, in conclusion, "but from my perspective, it's been a great situation."