AP source: Browns to sell stadium naming rights

Updated: January 14, 2013, 7:46 PM ET
Associated Press

The Cleveland Browns are close to selling naming rights for their stadium to an energy company based in Akron, Ohio, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Monday.

The deal with FirstEnergy Corp. could be announced as early as Tuesday, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team and the company haven't discussed it publicly.

The Plain Dealer first reported the negotiations with FirstEnergy, which is a sponsor for numerous professional sports teams, including Cleveland's Browns, Indians and Cavaliers.

Former Browns owner Randy Lerner declined to sell naming rights to Cleveland Browns Stadium, which opened on the shore of Lake Erie in 1999 when the team was reintroduced as an expansion franchise. Art Modell moved his team to Baltimore after the 1996 season.

The deal could bring millions to new owner Jimmy Haslam, who bought the Browns from Lerner for around $1 billion last October. When he acquired the team, Haslam said he was open to selling naming rights.

"While we remain committed to partnering with local community leaders and businesses to make our communities attractive places to live and work, we have no new announcements regarding any major sponsorships at this time," FirstEnergy said in a statement.

The Browns formerly played at Cleveland Stadium, which was razed after Modell moved the franchise to Baltimore and renamed it the Ravens. The 73,000-seat Cleveland Browns Stadium was built on site and has never had naming rights. The Cincinnati Bengals also have resisted selling name rights for the other NFL stadium in Ohio, which is called Paul Brown Stadium after the team's founder and the former Browns coach.

Haslam is trying to remake the franchise into a winner after years of changing coaches and failing to get very far. They fired coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert after a 5-11 finish this season -- the fifth straight year with at least 11 losses.

Last week, Cleveland hired Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski as its sixth head coach since 1999.

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Associated Press writer Kantele Franko in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.

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Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press

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