The FirstEnergy stadium ground crew has undergone an overhaul after an incident on November 21 when an intruder caused significant damage to the turf.
Authorities told News 5 in Cleveland their working theory is that someone jumped the stadium fence and then drove a golf cart onto the field. The intruder apparently decided to take a walk that included some donuts, which caused severe damage to the turf.
A few weeks after the incident, police identified the suspect as 21-year-old Anthony Robert Westley O’Neal. O’Neal has not been arrested and no charges have been filed. Police say O’Neal will face a “direct indictment” by the Cuyahoga County grand jury.
According to News 5, which sent a helicopter to the stadium to get images of the damage, “tire treads are coming off the 20-yard line” and covering “almost the entire west side of the pitch”.
With the damage having occurred on the Tuesday before the game, the pitch team has just five days left to ensure the pitch is ready for the game.
“We are aware of the incident which occurred early Tuesday morning at FirstEnergy Stadium and have provided the Cleveland Police Division with all relevant information,” the Browns said in a statement, via News 5. Based on our internal assessment, there was some superficial damage to the playing field which our grounds maintenance team are currently working to repair.We are very proud of the strong reviews and reputation of our stadium playing surface , have been in contact with the NFL about this and are confident after the repair [that] our field will be ready for Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.”
The field was set for the Week 12 game and the Browns beat the Buccaneers in overtime, 23-17.