Pretty much, yep. He had been asking for years for the city to repair or rebuild Cleveland Stadium, claiming that he could not afford to undertake major repairs on his own. (Of course, this stemmed in large part from his own constant financial mismanagement, which he always denied, but which became obvious when he sold off most of his stake in the team after moving to Baltimore. But anyway.)
When the city announced the Gateway project, which would contain a new arena for the Cavaliers to replace the Richfield Coliseum, and a new baseball-only park for the Indians, Modell was incensed. He would be losing the rent that the Indians paid to him, and would still be stuck with the old stadium.
The thing is, Modell had the opportunity to be in on the Gateway deal, and for whatever reason, he didn’t want to. The suspicion is that he was already shopping the team around. In any case, things came to a head during the 1995-96 football season. After both he and Mayor Michael White were in the newspapers all summer going back and forth about Cleveland Stadium, Modell declared a “moratorium” on talking about it in the news. He said that it was a distraction for the team, and he would talk about it after the season.
Well, guess what? There was a good reason for the moratorium–Modell had already reached an agreement with Baltimore to move the team there. Only a short while after his vow of silence, he announced the move. The city was, of course, furious, especially because there was a ballot issue scheduled for November to continue the alcohol and tobacco tax that had built Gateway for the purposes of repairing/rebuilding Cleveland Stadium. Too little, too late, I guess.
The long and short of it is that all parties involved–Modell, Mayor White, the city council, the county commissioners–screwed up and did everything wrong. Especially galling is that, in a city with a major public school crisis, Cleveland spent more than $300 million dollars to build a new stadium on the lakefront (on the site of the old stadium) with a 25-year property tax abatement, and turned the keys over to billionaire Al Lerner, who pays no rent. Brilliant.