Paul Brown Stadium – Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals were founded by Paul Brown in 1968, a Hall of Fame coach known for the innovation he brought to the position plus his role in helping to (re)integrate professional football. He was also a former coach of the Cleveland Browns, which only helped along the rivalry against their Ohio counterparts.
The team would play at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium for their first two seasons while the multi-purpose Riverfront Stadium was being constructed downtown. In the 30 seasons the Bengals played at Riverfront (1970-1999), they made the playoffs only seven times, none after 1990. The team won the AFC Championship twice, 1981 and 1988, but would lose both Super Bowls to Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers.
Starting in 1991 is the time we’ll just refer to as ‘the dark ages’. This is where the “Bungles” nickname came from. The team went without a winning season for 14 years straight, which would carry into the first five seasons at Paul Brown Stadium (which opened in 2000).
Since 2005, though, it’s been a new era for the team. Under Marvin Lewis, the team has made four playoff appearances including two straight entering the 2013 season. Many pundits believe this year might see a deep playoff run from the orange and black. With Andy Dalton leading the team at QB and a talented receiving corps including A.J. Green, Paul Brown Stadium is set to host some great football.
Food & Beverage 4
The food choices are decent with offerings from locals like Gold Star Chili and Larosa’s Pizza. Everything is of good quality but some of the prices are high, even for stadium food.
In the lower level concourse near section 104 is the Pigskin Pub. It’s really just a walled off section of the concourse with its own concession area, some tables to stand and eat at and the TV feed of the game projected on the wall. It’s a nice place to get out of the elements if needed, and you can get some decent BBQ here including a pulled pork sandwich for $9.
Amongst the standard selection of domestic macro beers, you can find beer from two of Cincinnati’s most historic brands. Hudepohl Amber Lager (20-ounce draft, $8.00), whose original Cincinnati brewery dated back to the 1880s and five options under the Christian Moerlein name. Christian Moerlein was a German immigrant to the city who opened his brewery in 1853. Of the five beers offered (all are 12-ounce pours, $7.25), the Barbarossa is really interesting, it’s a Bavarian double dark lager. The Moerlein Lager House beer is a descendent of the beer Moerlein first brewed himself, a beer that was the first American brew to certifiably pass the Reinheitsgebot Purity Law of 1516, or German Beer Purity Law, which basically stated that your beer could only be brewed with water, hops and barley. If you’re looking to try something different, give these a shot. They’re all good historic examples of the brewing history in this city.
It’s amazing what a competitive team can do for your game experience. While the open design of PBS doesn’t necessarily help retain noise, the local fans do their best to create a home-field advantage. A game at Paul Brown offers you great sightlines from every spot in the stadium. The lower bowl is incredibly close to the field while the upper decks are built on a steep incline to give those seats a good viewing angle to all on-field action.
There’s a strong tailgate culture for Bengals games, with organized groups like the Bengals Bomb Squad (beware of the autoplaying video) in Lot 1 on the west side of the stadium, north of the practice fields, as well as additional tailgates in the lots surrounding Longworth Hall. There’s also a block party-style tailgate right outside the stadium on E. Freedom Way. The Bud Light Tailgate Zone has live music, food, beer (of course), etc.
Starting three hours before game time on the southeast side of the stadium plaza is a family-friendly area. There’s beer sold here (I only saw Bud Light available), but there’s other food and drinks for sale plus games, facepainting, temporary tattoos, and inflatables for kids to play on.
There have been a lot of changes for the area around PBS. Things have drastically improved along Cincinnati’s riverfront. For years, the space between Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park was nothing but surface parking lots. Over time, developments have come in the form of The Banks, a complex of entertainment options and residential buildings atop underground parking and the Smale Riverfront Park, 50 acres of green space, water features, and public art. Currently, there are great pre and post-game options like the sports bar Holy Grail, the live music-focused Tin Roof and the craft beer haven, the Moerlein Lager House.
Even though the project is only halfway built, there’s a new energy that’s been brought to the area. Recently, the second phase of development was approved and soon PBS will no longer be an island unto itself as the surface lots next to it will be built on, hopefully helping to build a vibrant neighborhood on this important stretch of Cincinnati real estate.
To hell and back, that’s been the life of a Bengals fan. Through the struggles of the 90’s and the disappointment of the early 00’s, fans have remained somewhat loyal, angry at times (usually at team owner Mike Brown), but always loyal. With good reason, it took some longer to be okay with spending money on the team again, but people have come back around and sellouts should be a regular occurrence again.
The last ten seasons have shown Bengals fans that the organization does care to compete on the field, with four playoff appearances, including two straight going into 2013. However, old habits die hard and even the hint of the team struggling will bring out a resigned “same old Bengals” from fans.
Of course not every fan is going to be on their best behavior, so the Bengals have a ‘Jerk Line’ that fans can call to alert stadium staff to any unruly fans. The # is 513-381-JERK.
With its downtown location on the riverfront, Paul Brown is an easy trip to make. The stadium sits between the city’s two major interstate highways which flank the downtown area.
Despite being an urban stadium, there’s a good amount of surface parking lots to the north and west. As part of the Banks development between PBS and Great American Ball Park, large underground parking structures have been put to use.
If you don’t want to pay out parking fees (upwards of $30 for near stadium lots) in downtown, you can try parking across the Ohio River in Newport or Covington, KY. Covington sits directly across the river from PBS, and you can park in a public lot or find on-street parking and walk across the Roebling Suspension Bridge (the blue one). Additionally, you can catch the Southbank Shuttle bus for a $1 from different spots in either Kentucky town (here’s a .pdf of the route).
One of the more unique transit options is to catch the Queen City Riverboat shuttle from Newport. You park at the public lot (301 Riverboat Row, Newport KY 41071 to find it on a map) and board a riverboat from a barge that contains a Hooter’s restaurant and The Beer Sellar, a great bar with a huge selection of draft beers. It’s $5 a person round-trip (be sure to keep your game ticket for the return trip), and check the link for times.
Check out Parking Panda for some of the best parking options for the game. Use the promo code STADIUMJOURNEY10 for 10% off your first transaction.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets (all with the dreaded online service fees included) in the upper deck run from $52.14 in the 3 corner sections of each side to $85.05 in the front of the 7 center sections.
Seats in the corner sections of the club level, but without club access, cost $90.15. As for the lower bowl, seats in the south end zone are $90.15, north end zone are $90.15 in the lower section/$75.33 in the upper section and all lower sidelines are $100.36. You can check the stadium map for views from every section.
Given the expected quality of the Bengals in 2013 against and the Bengals strength of schedule ranking is 13th in the league, but just home schedule at PBS is ranked 5th overall. Throw in the always competitive AFC North (including a Monday night home game against the Steelers), and you should expect some good football games.
With prices well under league averages, and given that you can further mitigate the cost of parking and food (by eating before the game), a Bengals game is a good value.
One point for the lack of a corporate sponsor name to the stadium, a rare thing in pro sports these days. Paul Brown is a legend in Ohio for his contributions to football. Not just to the Bengals and their rival, the Cleveland Browns, but also to college (he coached Ohio State to its first National Championship in 1942) and high school football. Brown coached the Massillon Washington High School Tigers from 1930-1940, winning six straight state titles from 1935 to 1940. Massillon would rename its historic WPA-era stadium (opened in 1939) in 1979 as Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
One point for the proximity of Paul Brown Stadium to some of the area’s other sports venues. This is great if you’re making a weekend trip and want the chance to see some other local sports. The Reds home schedule overlaps with the first month of the NFL season, and you may be able to couple your trip to a Bengals game with Cyclones hockey at nearby U.S. Bank Arena (on the other side of GABP) or a game at one of the local colleges: the University of Cincinnati (football and basketball), Xavier University basketball, or Northern Kentucky University basketball.
One point for the architecture of the stadium. Paul Brown Stadium was ranked #101 on the American Institute of Architect’s ‘America’s Favorite Architecture’, a list of 150 of the country’s most loved structures. As one of only 10 sports-related buildings included, it really is an incredible honor for PBS to be included.
One point for the new level of competition from the Bengals. It’s been a long wait for the fans but with the team fielding its deepest roster in years, the team should be set up well for potential success for years to come.
Paul Brown Stadium is really one of the NFL’s unsung stadiums. A great location on Cincinnati’s riverfront, a beautifully constructed facility set amongst a quickly improving immediate surroundings. On the field, the Bengals have shown consistency in the past couple years and should be competing for a playoff spot come the end of December. A trip to PBS this year is definitely worth your time and money.
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