Nippert Stadium – FC Cincinnati
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The Queen City is a Soccer City
FC Cincinnati stormed out of the gate shattering attendance records in the second-tier United Soccer League with a league-leading average crowd of 25,717 during its final season in 2018. FCC established numerous records for single-game crowd size and season attendance at its home pitch in Nippert Stadium that a move to Major League Soccer was imminent.
Nippert on the campus of the University of Cincinnati will be the club’s home until the soccer-specific West End Stadium is completed for the 2021 MLS season. Nippert is the primary home for Bearcats college football but when FCC takes the pitch, it transforms into one of the better soccer stadium experiences in the country.
Unlike temporary soccer venues that existed in Minnesota and Tottenham the past few seasons, there is not a lot that would indicate that Nippert is such a venue. The FCC colors of blue and orange are abundant with a pitch free of gridiron markings and Bearcat logos. The surrounding modern campus buildings only add to the game day experience to a stadium that is nooked into the Clifton neighborhood of Cincinnati.
Food & Beverage 4
There is plenty of concession areas offering food and beverage throughout the stadium. There are several stands offering beer, sausages, pizzas, cotton candy, and other delights during the match.
Local brewery MadTree has one of the longest lines for its lone stand at the Craft and International Beer Garden. The line begins at the start of the game and does not end till alcohol is cut off towards the end of the second half. Carlsberg beer is also offered in tall cans and the price for a pint or a can is $8.
There are more beers served including Budweiser, Bud Light, Heineken, Corona, and Christian Moerlein Blood Orange IPA. The domestic beers cost $7.50, while imports are $8. Wine can be purchased for a very reasonable $5 a glass.
Food prices are either $4 or $5 and include Italian sausages, 85-ounce popcorn buckets, pizza slices by Donato’s, hot dogs, nachos (loaded nachos are three bucks more), and pretzels. Mettwurst, one of Cincinnati’s signature food items, is garlic spiced smoked sausage produced by Glier’s Goetta from across the river in Northern Kentucky. Other iconic Cincinnati dishes coneys and three-way chili are surprisingly absent inside the stadium.
There is quite to enjoy about an FCC game that one has to sit back and relish in their surroundings to fully appreciate it. Nippert Stadium transforms effectively into a world-class soccer stadium where crowds at or close to 33,800 fill every nook and cranny to provide the sweet cacophony for the match taking place on the pitch below.
Fans gather early at the stadium for home games and many secure parking spots in the various campus or city lots that surround it. Sheakley Lawn is adjacent to the stadium and houses pregame activities that include activities for the kids. Fan supporters march a mile to the stadium before every game and encourage others to join in, once they enter the stadium, fans clear the concourse and they make their way to The Bailey.
Orange smoke fills The Bailey, the supporters-only section, the moment players take the field who are then serenaded by the rest of the fans in the stadium. The Bailey sing, chant, cheer and blow off more smoke after a goal throughout the game. They are a fierce group who speak their mind against anyone wearing an opposing team jersey regardless of league or division.
The majority of the main concourse is wide open and allows visitors a chance to watch the game from almost anywhere in the stadium. If you are online ordering food, TV screens are positioned to show you the match. The concourse also enables great views of campus buildings both old and new to enjoy.
The concourse also houses an array of tents, portable stands, and vehicles provided local Cincinnati food and beverage. A few small tents offer team merchandise from scarves, caps, t-shirts, kits, and jackets. However, all of the action takes place on the field and for the majority of FCC fans, that is the focal point of the game–adding a closing statement to the game day atmosphere.
Nippert Stadium is set inside the campus of Cincinnati University in the Clifton section of town. Streets twist and turn up and down the small hills as patrons park their cars in one of the series of lots or parking lots near the stadium.
A few great places are within a few blocks or minutes of the stadium. Minutes away on foot is Vine Street which has transformed into a happening spot for breakfast spots, ghost tours, and entertainment the last decade. While a few miles further is the Clifton Gaslight District which is a residential area of post-Victorian homes and eclectic little shops, bars, and restaurants.
Vine Street offers two great breakfast and brunch destinations Hangover Easy and Ladder 19. Alabama Que has great prices on pulled pork, rib tips, and turkey tips. Island Frydays has what many call the best Caribbean food in Cincinnati and Tastes of Belgium is an official sponsor of FCC specializing in crepes, waffles, and frites.
The Gaslight District is a neighborhood I used to call home and it’s worth a visit any time of the day. Habanero offers both Mexican and American cuisine, Stillwell’s Coffee House is a funky little joint to enjoy a cup or pint of brew, and Proud Rooster is another great place for breakfast or brunch. Two iconic city institutions Graeter’s Ice Cream and Skyline Chili can also be found on the block.
Reingest Brewing is located a mile from the stadium in the Over-the-Rein section of town. The area is up and coming; however, the old 1890 warehouse building is packed with customers and features a top floor with taps, cornhole games, tables, and happy customers.
The fans of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region have responded outstandingly towards FCC. Record crowds have been an institution since day one and many in attendance are caught up with the action on the pitch for the entire 90 minutes.
The average attendance improved close to 50 percent from year one to year three and the club has sold out four areas of the stadium, including the fan supporters section The Bailey who march to the game in unison and provide a soundtrack of their own throughout the match.
Traffic moves briskly through the stadium and concourse levels and with the majority of open sections, it is quite easy to find seating, bathrooms, or concession stands. Handicap seating is located at the top of each aisle on the main concourse.
There are various parking lots and for a first-time visitor, it is best to follow the pattern of pedestrian traffic to the stadium. Ticket offices are located on the south side of the stadium.
One friendly reminder for the first time visitor, remember how to get back to your car in the parking lot. The UC campus can get confusing when leaving the game at night and there are not any signs leading fans back to specific areas. However, there are more than enough fans or police to ask how to get back your parking lot.
Return on Investment 5
FC Cincinnati had worked closely with the Fan Advisory Council to come up with ticket prices for its inaugural campaign in the MLS. A total of four new pricing sections were created to ensure prices were kept as low as possible. It appears that the extra work paid off since one can attend a game for as low as $15.
The first four price points range between $15 to $22 for a single priced ticket and the highest ticket price is $45 in Zone 1 in the center of the field. The lower price tickets also include end line and family sections, but there is not really a bad view of the field from anywhere in the stadium.
Concession prices are reasonable for food items but be prepared to fork out between $8 to $9 for a can of beer while watching the game, very much align with other MLS and sporting venues in the U.S. and Canada.
Nippert Stadium becomes a serviceable soccer venue for FCC games. There have been other temporary venues were visitors are clearly reminded that the soccer team is just here for a short visit, but there aren’t too many reminders of UC football or the university’s footprint found during matches. To a discerning eye, FCC is the main tenant in the building.
Cincinnati home to regional styles and local favorites that include LaRosa’s pizza, Fritsch’s Big Boy, Skyline coneys, Grater’s ice cream, Queen City Sausage, and craft beer from Reingiest, Christian Moreline, Mad Tree, and Braxton. It is a selection most benefiting to the Queen City.
Fan support has been tremendous from day one that includes record attendance numbers that should continue in the MLS this season and beyond. If FCC had been in the MLS in 2018, their average crowd would have put them fourth in the league behind only Atlanta, Seattle, and Toronto.
The Bailey is the fan supporters section that adds much of the soundtrack to the stadium that includes banners, smoke, cheers, songs, and party atmosphere that begins with a mile march to the stadium. The rest of the stadium adds their own soundtrack with serenading players coming onto the pitch.
It seems that Cincinnati became a soccer city the moment FCC took the pitch in the USL for the first time 2016. In just three short years the club has moved up to the MLS and within five years of the club’s first match will have its own 25,000 soccer-specific facility that will firmly establish it as one the premier destinations for MLS soccer. However, games at Nippert Stadium are highly enjoyable and matches up with the rest of the league stadiums here and overseas.
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Hyatt Regency Cincinnati
151 W 5th St
Cincinnati, OH 45202
150 W Fifth St
Cincinnati, OH 45202
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