BEREA — The Browns have a game plan to manage “Manzielmania” this summer.
Expecting huge crowds to see rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel compete with Brian Hoyer for the starting job, the Browns want fans to register online to attend training camp.
Cleveland can accommodate only about 5,000 fans at its facility. Browns President Alec Scheiner told The Associated Press the team will ask fans to sign up beforehand so “we don’t turn away 2,000 or 3,000 fans who just show up.”
Scheiner said the team will announce when capacity is reached, but fans can still come and wait to get in. The team is working out final details of the registration. Camp will remain free.
Manziel’s arrival has created a buzz around the Browns, who moved up in the first round of the NFL draft to select the celebrated Heisman Trophy winner who hangs out with rapper Drake and has NBA superstar LeBron James as a business partner.
Scheiner said the Browns’ season-ticket base has grown by more than 4,000 since Manziel was picked. His No. 2 jersey is on store shelves in the Cleveland area and is already one of the league’s top sellers before he has played in a game.
Manziel is behind Hoyer on the depth chart, and there’s no guarantee he’ll move up when the season starts. But that won’t stop fans from flocking to see Johnny Football, who caused a stir last weekend by taking a trip to Las Vegas.
Manziel was in Los Angeles on Friday with 34 other rookies to attend a rookie symposium run by the players’ union.
The Browns set attendance records at training camp last year and Scheiner anticipates this year’s crowds to be “a little bit better.”
“It’s exciting, and it’s fun,” he said. “We’re getting better.”
Scheiner, who spent eight years with the Dallas Cowboys before he was hired by Cleveland after the 2012 season, said the Browns have begun looking into moving their camp to a college campus.
The team previously trained at Bowling Green (1946-51), Hiram (1952-74), Kent State (1975-81) and Lakeland Community College (1982-91) before holding camp in Berea, the year-round training headquarters.
Scheiner points to the many challenges in moving training camp, including transportation costs, getting practice fields up to NFL specifications as well as housing.
“We’ll look at it,” he said. “If there’s something that makes sense, we’ll look at it. If there’s not, we won’t. But we’re going to start looking at it carefully.”
If the Browns do move camp, Scheiner expects the new site to be within driving distance of Cleveland.
Last year, the Browns drew 56,306 fans to their 13 open practices at the training facility and a family night session at FirstEnergy Stadium. They averaged 2,475 fans per practice in Berea and set a one-day record of 4,466.