Review originally posted on www.stadiumjourney.com
Opened in 2000, the Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium is a beautiful example of what can be when its done right. The Jungle, as fans affectionately call it, is affordable, in a great location, and has wonderful sight lines. I think most fans would find this a great place to go see a game.
FANFARE Score: 31 (out of 35)
Food & Beverage: 4
Entering this building I had no idea what a “Mett” was. For those of you like me, a mett is a German sausage that is generally served raw. The Blue Grass Meat Company offers a Cheese Mett at Paul Brown Stadium. Essentially, it tastes like a really good hot dog filled with cheese, and is not served raw, which I was happy about. I would highly recommend consuming a Mett or two.
Outside of that unique experience, there is nothing surprising about the offerings at a Bengals game, although most of the standards seem to be well done. I was happy with the slice of Donato’s pizza I had, and all food prices were relatively reasonable. Beer was offered in small and large sizes ($5 and $7.50 respectively), which offered another opportunity for the budget-conscience.
Designed by architect Dan Meis, Paul Brown Stadium was the first NFL venue to win an Award from the American Institute of Architects, and was one of only three sports venues featured on the list of America’s favorite structures in 2007 (only Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium rated higher from the world of sports).
The stadium is perfectly situated on the Cincinnati riverfront next door to the Reds’ Great American Ballpark. There are views of the Cincinnati skyline, or the Ohio river separating Ohio from Kentucky.
The capacity is only 65,535 and sight lines are good no matter where you end up. I sat on the 20 yard line about eight rows from the top of the place and felt like I had a good view for all of the action.
One criticism has got to be the Bengals fight song, The Bengal Growl, which is neither catchy nor clever. One diehard fan sitting next to me, who sang along fervently to the song, turned to me afterwards and said, “it sucks, doesn’t it?”
The tailgating is stellar both immediately outside of the Stadium, and even blocks into the city itself. It was a cold, but not bitterly cold day when I visited, but lots were full of fans grilling, playing bags, and generally just having fun.
For the non-tailgaters there are enough bars and restaurants to keep you busy. Here are a few that I visited:
Mainstay Rock Bar is located at the corner of 5th and Plum across the street from a lot full of tailgaters. They offer very large mugs of five different beers on tap, as well as several craft brews and big bottles of domestics for $4. It seemed to be a place for tailgaters to get drink, warm-up, or use the bathroom. It’s a good low key place to have a few drinks before heading to Paul Brown Stadium.
Down the street is the Plum Street Café, a joint with a distinctively local feel. They have six beers on tap, and offer some good base food including hamburgers and hot dogs. I went for a cup of chili, which they serve out of a Styrofoam cup. It was rather delicious. This is the place that I would probably hangout at if I were to go back to Cincy.
Finally I stopped in to the Head First Sports café. The place was packed and noisy with a DJ, and several stations dishing out bottles of beer. If you are looking for a high energy place to get your drink on, then this is the stop for you. It also seems to be the closest bar to the Jungle.
If you’re a hunter, you’ll feel right at home. Looking around there was enough florescent orange in the seats to feel like you were at some kind of deer camp convention. Those fans really are passionate about their team, and are especially proud amidst only the second winning season in the past 19 years.
I was especially impressed during the opening graphic on the scoreboard how loud the crowd got when the animated Bengal slashed its claw through a flag of the opposing team. Bengals fans went nuts, and only touchdown plays resulted in louder eruptions.
Outside of the dismal fight song that I mentioned earlier, fans are treated to plentiful offerings of Guns N’ Roses’ Welcome to the Jungle, a great pre-kickoff tune.
Parking options are plentiful since the stadium is just south of the city. If you don’t have a pass to park in one of the tailgating sections, you can easily find parking in a parking structure for anywhere between $5-$30. I parked at Vine & 7th for $5, and it was about a 15-minute walk from there, well worth it for the difference in price.
Bathrooms are adequately clean and plentiful, absolutely no problems, even during the busy halftime rush.
Return on Investment: 5
A ticket purchased six days before my trip in the upper reaches of the third deck cost me $85 after ticket master charges. By today’s standards in the NFL, a very reasonable cost. I also thought that food was priced fairly as was merchandise. Overall, I would have actually been willing to pay more for the experience.
The first extra point has to go for the fact that the stadium is named Paul Brown Stadium. In an era where corporate naming rights have become the norm, this easily could have been dubbed Proctor & Gamble Field, or something along those lines. Instead, they fittingly pay tribute to the team’s founder.
One point for the great views, and another point awarded for the friendly staff. I especially appreciated asking one of the concession vendors what a Mett was, and getting an answer without any “you-aren’t-from-around-here” sort of attitude.
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Cincinnati and Paul Brown Stadium, and would recommend it both for hardcore and casual football fans. Located within 300 miles of NFL cities Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Nashville it may be a great place to catch your team on the road.
Paul Swaney is the Co-Founder of Stadium Journey