I flew into Cincy from Newark around 11 this morning on a sunny and beautiful Thursday. With all day to kill before tonight’s game, I headed down to The Banks to grab some lunch at one of my favorite taco restaurants and then over to Great American Ballpark to get a stadium tour and to check out the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum which is one of the best team HoFs in all of baseball. After the tour, I walked over the Taylor-Southgate Bridge into Kentucky for a 90 minute Riverboat Ride up the Ohio some nice views of both the Cincinnati and Kentucky sides.
With still some time to kill, I hopped in car and drove out past University of Cincinnati to the American Sign Museum . This is a pretty unique place, it is the largest public museum dedicated to signs in the United States, covering more than 100 years of American sign history in 20,000 square feet of indoor space.
Around 7 PM, I walked over to Paul Brown Stadium following the crowd dressed in orange and black. Built in 2000 (putting it right in the middle of NFL stadiums in age ranking) PBS is one of the rare examples of professional sports venues that lacks of a corporate sponsor name. It is named after the legendary coach and team founder.
Along the way to the stadium , there was plenty of action and pre-game fanfare on the streets – in particular The Bud Light Tailgate Zone which has live music, food, beer, etc. and usually gets kicked off around three hours before game time on the southeast side of the stadium plaza.
The lines getting in to the stadium were the slowest of pretty much any stadium that I’ve been to so far. While the exterior design of the stadium is nice, the inside is a bit underwhelming and there are no remarkable features. Getting around is easy – lines aren’t really long for concessions or bathrooms. There are also a few open areas with good views of the field in all levels if you don’t want to be confined to your seat and hang with friends while watching the game action.
There was a special treat for the fans at halftime as they held a 30th anniversary reunion of the members of AFC Champion 1988 Team which included James Brooks, Icky Woods, Max Montoya, Cris Collingsworth, Anthony Munoz , a video ‘hello’ from Sam Wyche- but surprisingly nothing at all nothing at all from Boomer Esiason. Not only was ’88 the last time the Bengals appeared in the Super Bowl, they haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season which is the sixth-longest drought in NFL history.
The food and beer options are above average NFL standards with some decent offerings from locals like Gold Star Chili and Larosa’s Pizza as well as the Pigskin Pub. Two of Cincinnati’s most well-known beers are represented – Hudepohl and Christian Moerlein.
The fans were pumped up for the Thursday night game against their division rivals the Ravens but the were all well behaved. Nothing crazy or loud or rowdy at all. At least not that I saw.
The game had plenty of offensive firepower with QBs Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco combining for 641 passing yards and 6 TDs (4 by Dalton – including 3 to AJ Green in the first half). The Bengals jumped out to a 21-0 2nd quarter lead and appeared to be sailing. But a Flacco TD pass to John Brown with 9:35 left in the game trimmed the lead to 28-23. The Bengals added a FG to go up 31-23 and on the Ravens next possession, with 2:42 to go ,Shawn Williams stripped the ball from Joe Flacco setting up a field goal by Randy Bullock that closed it out. The loss snapped a Baltimore 5 game winning streak on Thursday night football.
After the game I walked down through The Banks, a complex of bars and restaurants atop underground parking adjacent to the Smale Riverfront Park,. There are great pre and post-game options like the sports bar Holy Grail and the live music-focused Tin Roof. The whole area was still very much hopping after game. A nice temporary addition to the banks is SkyStar, a ‘travelling’ 150 foot Ferris Wheel that recently was shipped up from Louisville and will be at the Banks until early December before heading off to its next destination.
Tomorrow, I’m heading down to Louisville for the day/night for some horse racing and bourbon, then driving 6 hours north to Pittsburgh for the Sunday game.
Fans – C+ – Pumped up for Thursday night. Civil enough, but not nearly as social as most other stadiums that I’ve been to.
Features – C – Nothing really remarkable. Pretty cool ‘jungle motif’ on the sidelines and end zone. Open concourses for watching the game away from your seat.
Location – A+ – Easily walkable from downtown. Lots of options in The Banks before and after. Easily accessible by shuttle / mass transit
Food – B – Nothing special food wise. Decent prices. Manageable lines. Good beer options
Game – B – Lots of offense. 3 TDs in first half to AJ Green. Home team wins on Thursday night
Overall Experience – B – Great location in a great city, but nothing too exceptional about anything else