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Voters Extend ‘Sin Tax’ To Rehab Browns’ Stadium

November 8, 1995 GMT

CLEVELAND (AP) _ Voters approved a 10-year extension of Cuyahoga County’s ``sin tax″ on alcohol and tobacco products to fund renovation of the aging stadium housing the Cleveland Browns, who are threatening to leave town.

The measure approved 72 percent to 28 percent Tuesday was the last piece in a patchwork of taxes and fees intended to raise $150 million to $170 million for renovation of the creaky, Depression-era Cleveland Stadium.

Browns owner Art Modell announced Monday that he planned to move the team to Baltimore in time for the 1996 season, and said his deal in that city _ which includes a new $200 million stadium _ was ``far beyond the capacity of the community of Cleveland″ to match.

At an NFL owners meeting in Dallas earlier Tuesday, Modell ruled out any chance of the Browns staying in Cleveland, regardless of the vote: ``The bridge is down, burned, disappeared. There’s not even a canoe there for me.″

Mayor Michael R. White said the resounding vote helped prove the city and region has ``the best fans″ in the National Football League, fans who ``did not deserve to be treated like this.″

Supporters of the tax argued that improving the stadium is critical even if the Browns leave, because it would strengthen the city’s bid to attract another franchise.

Several social activist groups, including the Catholic Worker Community and the American Friends Service Committee, opposed it as ``welfare for the wealthy.″

Voters approved the tax in 1990 to help pay for the city’s new baseball stadium and basketball arena. The tax, which adds a few cents to the cost of a drink or a pack of cigarettes, had been scheduled to expire in 2006.