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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
The Cleveland Browns have backed out of a deal that would have relocated the team's training camp to Columbus in 2018.
The Browns informed the city and Franklin County on Wednesday that they would not be moving forward with the deal, which would have included a new, larger Tuttle Park recreation center and new football fields.
"While we greatly appreciate the efforts of and our discussions with representatives from the city of Columbus, Franklin County and Ohio State University, we believe it is best for our football team, our organizational goals and our fans to continue to host training camp in northeast Ohio," Browns spokesman Peter John-Baptiste said in a statement.
Under the proposal, the Browns and Franklin County each would have contributed $5 million. The city would have covered the rest of the estimated $15 million to $17 million to tear down the existing recreation center, just north of the Ohio State campus, and build a new, larger facility.
The team said it has "decided to keep training camp in Berea for the immediate future."
"From the beginning, the concept of redeveloping the Tuttle Park Community Center has been about working with partners to find ways to maximize facilities and programming for our residents," TonyCollins,Columbusdirector of Recreation and Parks, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, we are unable to move forward with this project."
The deal was still a concept earlier this month, but appeared to be on its way to completion.
After razing the 15,000-square-foot recreation center in Tuttle Park, a city-owned park on the North Side, a 45,000-square-foot building with a gymnasium, fitness center, art rooms and meeting space would have replaced it.
The plan also called for three outdoor fields, including one that would have been artificial turf, where the Browns would have practiced.
The Browns would have used most of the recreation center and fields for a month during the summer, but it would have been open to the public the rest of the year.
The partnership would have given the Browns direct access to fans in a city without a pro football team where it competes for attention with the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers, two of its on-field rivals. The Browns also planned to work with youth football programs in Columbus.
It's unclear what changed, but the Browns reaffirmed their commitment to keeping camp in the Cleveland suburb of Berea. A source said the deal, as constructed, was not a factor in the decision.
"While we still believe in the concept of bringing multiple partners together, both in the public and private sector, to help develop better facilities, we respect the Cleveland Browns' decision and want to thank them for their willingness to explore partnership opportunities," Collins said in a statement.
The Franklin County commissioners still want to work with the city on a plan to jointly operate a facility that would include workforce development and job training for youth.
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