Cincinnati holds a special place in baseball lore... in today's day of multi-million dollar
contracts, it all started right here in Cincinnati, when the "Red Stockings" organized as
baseball's first professional team in 1869, and the players then had "the audacity" to
demand financial compensation for their playing services. Those pioneers could not even
imagine how their game would evolve into our National Pastime! For Cincinnati, building a
new ballpark posed several challenges... capturing their long and storied history which in
recent generations has taken them through Crosley Field and Cinergy Field (nee Riverfront
Coliseum), doing something architecturally unique and distinctive, and incorporating the
comforts and amenities which are integral to today's sports venues. From our
observations, the Reds have succeeded on all fronts.
Getting to the venue
Great American Ballpark is located in downtown Cincinnati, and is situated along the city's
riverfront, directly adjacent to the site where the old Cinergy Field/Riverfront Stadium once
stood. I-71 is the major arterial bisecting downtown and running directly next to the
ballpark. In recent years this highway has undergone massive reconstruction, and the
results are impressive. Most of the interstate is sunken below grade, and wide service
roads run on either side, all freshly paved and decorated with brick pavement, decorative
light fixtures, and even attractive landscape berms on the bridges and overpasses. From
these service roads one can find ample parking both around the ballpark and in the
downtown core. Some lots are reserved for permit/season ticket holders, and the price for
public lots closest to the venue begin at $10. Prices drop to $5-$7 quickly, and on
weekends the meters aren't monitored downtown, so if you get there early enough you
might even snag a free spot.
There is also a shuttle bus service which runs through downtown and across the bridge
into Covington, KY, which has a dropoff point right outside the ballpark. The fare runs $1.25.
Outside the venue
in recent years the downtown Cincinnati waterfront has undergone a massive
transformation, and the process is still underway. The centerpieces are their two new
stadiums - the Bengals' Paul Brown Stadium and of course Great American Ballpark. The
city's sports arena, US Bank Arena, home to a minor league hockey team is also part of this
complex. The site of Cinergy Field is still being cleared, but eventually will be rebuilt with
condos and townhouses, a hotel, and retail and office space. A new museum celebrating
the National Underground Railroad is taking shape next door with a summer 2004 opening
planned. And of course, the first base side of the ballpark has yet to be built out, since the
outfield of Cinergy Field was situated in that same area.
A new parkway with pedestrian and bike paths hugs the riverfront, and right beyond the
centerfield wall is a splendid monument and series of displays heralding the steamboat and
its contribution to the city's history. Large smokestacks spew steam and fire, and are
crowned by a bright red paddlewheel. This monument can be seen from most locations in
the seating bowl.
The main entrance to the stadium is aptly named "Crosley Terrace", nicely setup with
landscaped boxes shaped in the form of a baseball infield, and banners displaying great
Reds moments in history are grouped here as well as in other locations around the exterior
of the ballpark. A statue of Reds icon Ted Kluszewski stands here as well. Although there
are other entrances to the venue, this is the one where most fans enter the building, and
with enhanced security measures, can back up quickly.
Keep in mind that the Cinergy Field site is still rubble and debris, and much work remains
to be done around the area, but the results so far look very impressive.
The building and concourses
The exterior facade of the ballpark is brick with a cast stone base, similar in look to the
nearby historic Roebling Bridge. A huge limestone relief adorns the building near the main
entrance, called "Spirit of Baseball". In addition to the ballpark's main marquee, "rounding
third and heading for home" is emblazoned on the building's third base side facade in
backlit neon. This phrase was apparently coined by Reds broadcaster Joe Nuxhall.
This building just oozes the team's history... two mosaics greet you once through the gates
- one celebrates the teams founding in 1869, and the second the 1975 Big Red Machine
team. Take a left turn and you are in the massive third base concourse. Here you can find
all sorts of team exhibits displayed in various ways. High up from the ceiling hang replica
front pages of Cincinnati newspapers from great championship events. The teams
championship "banners", so to speak, are displayed in a series of murals along the wall.
And a band of quotes runs along the wall along the suite level, capturing quips of baseball
notables in a continuous ticker style display that can be seen from the main concourse.
Access from lower to upper levels are via ramps, an escalator tower along the third base
side, and numerous elevators scattered throughout the building. For now, the first base
concourse is extremely constricted and congested. Keep in mind that the first base side
area has yet to be fully built. Once it is completed, a massive new team store, a Reds Hall of
Fame and Museum, an area called the Rose Garden, celebrating the very spot where Pete
Rose's historic 4192nd base hit landed back in 1985, and large public gathering spaces will
make this area much nicer. For now it is a chore getting through here.
A number of design elements from the old Crosley Field were incorporated into Great
American Ballpark to give this place a feel of their former home. The tall, narrow light
towers mimic those of the old ballpark, the "Sun/Moon Deck" which are the right field
bleacher seats replicate those popular seats from Crosley Field, and high above the
scoreboard is an analog Longines clock replicating that of the old venue.
The most unique feature of the concourses here is a gap in the seating along the third
base line. From both upper and lower levels you can grab a great view of the field, and
from the seats you can get a great gander at the Cincinnati skyline. This notch is located
right above the visitors dugout, and as a result, the 400 and 500 upper decks are brought
in even closer to the playing field.
The seating bowl
All seats are colored red here, and many of the seats are located on the main level. On the
third base side there are two levels, with the upper level split into 400 and 500 level and
there is a view of the playing surface from this concourse as well as the lower concourses.
On the first base side are three decks, with the middle deck for club seating. The main
scoreboard is massive, the widest in the majors, and is situated above the left field
bleachers. Accompanying the board is a high definition video board, and along the
balconies on the first and third base sides one can find strip digital LED boards. Five
changeable billboards hang directly beneath the scoreboard. But the signature element of
the seating bowl is an area in right centerfield called the "Pepsi Power Stacks". This display
looks like a riverboat, complete with steam smoke stacks, a city logo, two round LED
boards, and these stacks light up and blow mist whenever the Reds hit a home run. Very
cool! An old-time out of town scoreboard is located along the left field wall.
Great selection here, and many of the canopied and well decorated concessions bear local
themes.. A lot of the food selections are grilled and prepared behind glass partitions in full
view of those waiting in line. There are two local dishes that you have to try - the first are
Skyline cheese coneys. These are hot dogs topped with chili, onions and mounds of finely
grated cheddar cheese. A treat unique to Cincinnati! The second is Montgomery's Inn
Barbecue, a Cincinnati institution, and barbecued ribs and pulled pork sandwiches are on
the menu here as well. Unlike some venues, all concession offerings are available on both
upper and lower levels. For now, small team merchandise kiosks are scattered through the
concourses, and an enclosed team store is on the upper deck on the third base side.
The "Machine Room Grille" is a restaurant and brewpub located near the left field foul
pole, and is open on game days as well. With a brick veneer and open rafters, the
restaurant has a real working class feel and is full of memorabilia and displays from the
Reds' "Big Red Machine" team of the 70s, as well as an outdoor patio with a view of the
Club seating can be found along the first base side on the middle deck, and behind home
plate, both areas have access to a climate enclosed concourse called "Club 4192" offering
full bar service and various premium food selections. Directly behind home plate are two
super premium areas, one called "scout seats" with its own lounge area, and for the real
high rollers, "diamond seats", where food and drink are included. Ticket prices here run
$175-$210 so come hungry. In addition to suites behind home plate and along the third
base side, there are also numerous areas available for groups, including an open air area
called "Redlegs Landing" in the outfield, and an enclosed area in dead center field called
the "Batters Eye Pavilion".
A membership club is located on the club level near the right field foul pole. Called the
"Riverfront Club", this area offers upscale dining with a great view of the field from a glass
enclosed area. Any season ticket holder can join for an additional fee.
Banners and retired numbers
As stated earlier, the Reds championships are displayed in a series of murals in the main
concourse along the third base side. Their retired numbers are displayed behind home
plate on the press box facade, and they include #1 Fred Hutchinson, #5 Johnny Bench, #8
Joe Morgan, #18 Ted Kluszewski, #20 Frank Robinson and #24 Tony Perez. C'mon Bud! Will
you and Mr. Rose PLEASE work out a deal so we can take care of the glaring omission of
the #14 from that list.
Home runs, hits, errors
Error... TV monitors can be found anywhere you look in the concourses and near
concession stands, but unfortunately, they only display player graphics and stats and no on
field action. Waiting in line for food? You will have to rely on the roar of the crowd to keep
track of what is going on. We will write this off as a "new venue glitch" for now.
Home run... Those miserable old codger ushers who groused around Cinergy Field (and
presumably Crosley Field before that) are nowhere to be found, and have been replaced by
friendly and helpful game day staff with nice dispositions and eager to help. (Pay attention,
Pittsburgh Pirates you have work to do in this area.) We assume that the codgers are
currently being stuffed at the local taxidermists, and will be on display at the Reds museum
come 2004, complete with their scowls.
Error... To the City of Cincinnati, since this is one place where the USRT karma has never,
EVER been effective!!!! On this day, the Reds go down to defeat at the hands of the Cubs by
a 9-7 count. Add to that the fact that we also saw the Reds lose at Cinergy(on the turf and
on the grass) and a Bengals pummeling at Paul Brown in 2000. We have yet to see the
home folks leave the building happy. But wait! There's more......
E-8....In one of the worst attacks of the USRT jinx ever, superstar Red Ken Griffey Jr. left
the game with a separated shoulder after making a spectacular if unsuccessful attempt to
catch a fly ball late in the action.
Hit... to the reasonably priced seats in this joint. Get a 400 level seat on the infield third
base side for just $16, and a 500 seat for $11!! Not too many places where you'll find that!
And that brings us to...
Error... Opening week, yet crowds of only 24-29,000 and plenty of empty seats. New
ballpark, exciting team, cheap tickets... what's the matter with you Cincinnati!
Hit...We took a step back in time and paid a visit to the Cincinnati Gardens for an AHL game
on Saturday night. Opened in 1949, this venue is an exact replica of Toronto's Maple Leaf
Gardens in its original form (OK, not quite....there's no portrait of the Queen above one
endzone!). Not a single club seat or suite to be found here, how refreshing!! The arena just
oozes history, and that history can best be seen in a small museum inside the building with
all kinds of memorabilia from so many athletes and entertainers that performed inside this
aging venue, e.g.NBA Royals, IHL Mohawks, AHL Swords, Xavier basketball.
By the way, the game ended in a tie. Thus we are still winless in the 'Nati!
Thanks go to season ticket holder M.C. Rossellott for making his fabulous club seats
available to us at face value no less! Props also to Reds super fan Kevin Sealschott who
wrote us numerous times with tips about the city and the ballpark, and who we met up with
for a bit before the game.
Great American Ballpark encompasses everything we like about sports venues... a great
downtown setting and a clean and vibrant downtown with things to see and do. A lynchpin
for related urban development. Nice architecture and design. Superior technology and
scoreboards. Great regard to the team's history and also embracing the city's heritage in a
meaningful way. Friendly and helpful staff. Nice amenities and food selection. Great
American Ballpark seems to have it all and it is all well put together here. We will save our
ultimate rating by giving an "incomplete"; much remains to be done as to the first base side
and concourse, along with its amenities, which remain to be built. But for now we will place
this venue at 4 STARS, with a promise for a return visit in 2004 when all is finished for
further evaluation. Nice job Cincinnati, we look forward to coming back!
Fan Support 5.5
Concourses/fan comfort 7
Replica paddleboat 2; stone murals at main gate 2; Hall of Fame 1
Great American Ballpark