By Will Burge | ESPNCleveland.com
With Jimmy Haslam III busy cleaning up the mess at Pilot Flying J this offseason, C.E.O. Joe Banner has been the man front and center. While most of the focus has been on the moves he is making to repair a roster that won just five games last season, Banner and his team have also been busy repairing a game day experience that was antiquated, unexciting, and uninspiring.
"My primary goal is getting to know the people here", said Joe Banner the day he was introduced to the media. "I need to understand really quickly what it is about the game day experience that our fans like and don't like. That will then impact next year.”
Enter Kevin Griffin.
The Browns hired the nephew of two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin on May 8th as the new Vice President of Fan Experience and Marketing. The Columbus native has been very busy behind the scenes.
What fans have seen from Griffin so far is a twitter account (@KevinGriffin425) which has been open to dialogue and ideas about to how the team should improve its experience. What fans will see very soon is that Griffin has been listening.
A source inside the Browns’ organization has informed ESPN Cleveland of a laundry list of changes in store for Browns fans. Some are major, some are minor, some are slightly bizarre, but all seem to be an improvement over the status quo.
Here are some of the things that will be changing around First Energy stadium this season.
Fan Night at First Energy Stadium will he held on August 3rd this year and will allow fans to come and watch a Browns inter-squad scrimmage free of charge. This year, Family Night will include a laser show to accompany the fireworks fans are accustomed to seeing. This was previously announced with the training camp schedule.
The team has spent money to clear out BrownsTown, an area of the concourse which contained Heritage Hall, to make room for an inside pregame tailgate experience. The team has also scrapped the failed “Tailgate Terrance” outside the stadium.
Never heard of “Tailgate Terrance”? Don’t worry, not many people have. It was a small, unimaginative tailgate on the south side of the stadium for a few hours before games.
Instead, an improved tailgate will be moved into the former Brownstown area and expanded to include activities and events for all ages.
The move serves two purposes. First, it gets people into the stadium earlier so there will be larger crowds at the opening kickoff.
The second purpose is financial. As the source told me, “Every time a fan eats a hot dog or drinks a beer in the parking lot; it is a dollar the team doesn’t make.”
Griffin has openly said on twitter that the pre and in-game music will be upgraded and brought into the 21st century. He queried the fans for newer, upbeat tunes that will keep the stadium rocking and still be fan friendly. So don’t expect Rolling Stones and The Who quite as often on the lakefront this year.
The most noticeable change will be the player introductions. Last year, the Browns hired the company that conducts the Baltimore Ravens’ intros and added two flame shooting towers mid season.
This year, they will have flames, pyrotechnics, and smoke when the Browns players are introduced. The team also decided it needed a pre-introduction hype video similar to what the Cavs do at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Browns will also discontinue the use of their Backers Clubs to line the mouth of the tunnel.
Some people felt it was time for the Browns to get cheerleaders and those people will be disappointed. As both Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner have said to the media, there will not be cheerleaders on the Browns’ sidelines.
What there will be, however, is a drum line. The goal of the organization is to make that drum line all female as somewhat of a compromise to those who wanted a skirt wearing spirit squad.
Fans should envision a newer, up-tempo drum line instead of the older, traditional marching band style from what I am told.
Perhaps the strangest of all changes coming to First Energy Stadium this season is also Kevin Griffin’s favorite: Wiener dog races. Griffin worked with the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders and these were a hit with the crowds in the great Northwest.
The source said that Griffin is, “all about this one”.
Here is how it works: One game a year the fastest wiener dogs in the Midwest will put their “speed” to the test. The dogs will line up at the 50 yard line and Chomps (the Browns mascot) will wave a green flag. The dogs will then awkwardly run towards the end zone. First dog to the Dawg pound wins.
It’s a pretty simple premise but the fans in Seattle certainly loved it. Here is a video of the races at a Seahawks game in 2011.
The Browns are also planning a large tribute to Jim Brown during one halftime this season. The details on what this tribute will contain are being kept secret, but since the legend works within the organization again I expect it to be extravagant.
Since Brown did not attend his Ring of Honor ceremony, this tribute will serve as a make good.
Finally, the Browns plan on bringing back the best damn band in the land, The Ohio State Marching Band to perform at a halftime again this season.
|Will Burge covers the Browns for ESPNCleveland.com and hosts 3 Deep, Monday - Friday from 7pm-9pm.|
Follow Will on Twitter @WillBurge
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