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Paul Brown Stadium

Cincinnati, OH

Home of the Cincinnati Bengals

4.1

4.3

Paul Brown Stadium (map it)
One Paul Brown Stadium
Cincinnati, OH 45202


Cincinnati Bengals website

Paul Brown Stadium website

Year Opened: 2000

Capacity: 65,535

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Bengal Ball

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.

4.1

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

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.

Atmosphere    4

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.

Neighborhood    4

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 PBS 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.

Fans    4

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.

Access    5

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.

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.

Extras    4

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

PBS

Good write up, you hit all the highlights in teh stadium. There are probably even better bars in Covington, KY, than were reviewed in Cincy. I always parked on the street for free usually around 7th street. I haven't been to a game in three years since they banned smoking at PBS and I will probably never go back, but I used to go to 2-4 games a year and I have fond memories from all the good times I had at PBS.

by CigarBoy | Mar 07, 2011 05:11 PM

My take

Pretty darn good write up. I get a good feel for a Bengal's game experience and it is a pretty good one.

A few things I would add. There is plenty of free street parking in downtown Cincy and in Covington, KY with in a mile of PBS. If someone pays $30 to park they are looking to part with some Do-Re-Mi.

If I am looking to stay in Cincy for a Bengals game, N. KY is the place to go. There are a ton of hotels starting with the Marriott and Embassy Suites on the river, right across the river to lower end hotels for the penny-pincher types. All a short walk across the Suspension Bridge from PBS and much better prices than in downtown Cincy, plus many hotels have free parking in Covington. .

There are also plenty of bars and restaurants with in three blocks of PBS both in Cincy and probably even better ones in Covington and Newport, KY. Also you can smoke in N. KY bars, so keep that in mind if that is your thing.

Unfortunately, like most NFL stadiums, you have to deal with a ton of drunken fools atPBS, not always a great family experience.

Also the Cadillac Ranch bar was shut down by the IRS a while back and they have since been evicted by the landlord. It used to be a popular bar for young beer guzzlers, but we will have to see if a bar moves into that space.

Tina's and the Head First Cafe are Cincy classics and good picks. Also the George Clooney movie "The Idles Of March" filmed some key scenes at the Head First Cafe.

by CigarBoy | Nov 23, 2011 12:18 PM

RockBottom Brewery is my choice downtown for Bengals games before and after the game. It's in fountain square. Unfortunately, there is not a ton of bars and restaurants near the stadium. http://www.fromthisseat.com.
Hotels in Kentucky are a much better way to go. Even Embassy Suites will be much cheaper than downtown's Netherland Plaza, Millenium or Westin.

by w_mann5 | Jan 20, 2012 03:01 AM

Who-Dey

Its been a few years since I've been to a Bengals game, but I was in town last summer for a Brewers/Reds game, so I remember the city well.

Fans were rude. Even on that particular day, the Bengals won and they were still a-holes.

The Head First Sports Cafe is probably the closest venue to PBS, but of course, before a game, it was packed. Good atmosphere though.

If you're in town for the weekend, go up to Mt. Adams. Its a great little bar and shopping neighborhood just to the northeast of downtown. Shout out to Crowley's on Mt. Adams!

Cincinnati is a great sports city, but as of the summer of 2012, locals were hating on the Bengals. Obviously a baseball town, but Bengals football is not a bad deal.

by flamer | Jun 18, 2013 09:47 AM

Nice update on Cincinnati

Nice review and I'm not even a football fan. I like the update on the Cincinnati riverfront area (it's been a while since I've visited that city), the info on jerk line (most major league stadiums have security hotlines posted, it's clever to be called the jerk line here), the Queen City Riverboat info, and the brewing/brewery history lesson.

by megminard | Aug 30, 2013 08:33 PM

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Crowd Reviews

Rumble in the Jungle

Total Score: 3.86

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 3
  • Fans: 4
  • Access: 5
  • RoI: 4
  • Extras: 3

Following the decline of one of sport's most innovative convertible stadiums for its time in Cinergy Field, more commonly known as Riverfront Stadium. Paul Brown Stadium has become the wonderful new image of the Cincinnati Bengals. Not only were the Bengals a proud recipient of the tax passed by Hamilton County to fund their new home, but the MLB franchise Cincinnati Reds scored the beautiful Great American Ball Park as well. Although Riverfront Stadium was home to many great memories (with friends and family more so than results on the field), most Cincinnatians would agree that it was time for an upgrade. According to Harris Interactive Survey, Paul Brown Stadium recently has been named to the list of "America's Favorite 150 Buildings and Structures," being the only football stadium to make this list. The only other two sports venues to make the list were Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium.

Welcome to the Jungle

Total Score: 4.57

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 5
  • Neighborhood: 5
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 5
  • RoI: 5
  • Extras: 3

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.

Paul Would Be Proud

Total Score: 4.00

  • Food & Beverage: 5
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 3
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 4
  • RoI: 5
  • Extras: 2

PBS has an interesting design as you enter on a mezzanine level and have to take stairs down to the lower level aisles. There are typical concessions, but the Who Dey Melts ($8.25) are the recommended option as the bread is cooked right in front of you and is fresh and crispy. There is a standing area in the northeast corner of the second level that is usually quite empty but gives you good views if you get in the right spot.

The Bengals conduct security separate from the ticket scan procedure, so it makes the whole entry process much smoother. Other teams should follow suit.

Fans are good, cheering constantly and believing in their team, which is nice to see. Getting out can be tough as there are no police to guide traffic and fans don't obey the lights at times.

Tickets are cheap and there were some available on game day for the Patriots. If it is raining, the top 5 or 6 rows in the upper deck are covered by the canopy, so take those if you are worried.

Scoreboards are old and need to be upgraded. All in all though, a very good place to watch a game.

Really like Cincy & PBS

Total Score: 4.57

  • Food & Beverage: 5
  • Atmosphere 5
  • Neighborhood: 5
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 4
  • RoI: 4
  • Extras: 4

I'm a big fan of the downtown location along the river. Paul Brown Stadium is a beautiful venue and a reasonable drive from Chicago, Indy, Detroit, Cleveland, and Nashville.

Paul Brown Stadium

Total Score: 4.29

  • Food & Beverage: 3
  • Atmosphere 5
  • Neighborhood: 5
  • Fans: 4
  • Access: 5
  • RoI: 5
  • Extras: 3

You cannot beat the location. Great access to parking. Great viewing angles anywhere in the stadium as well as a river and skyline views in the surroundings. Food is ok, nothing that wows you. One negative is that scoreboards need to be bigger or in better locations. Difficult to see time left, score, etc. Friendly fans and a very good place to check out a game!

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Local Food & Drink

Moerlein Lager House  (map it!)

115 Joe Nuxhall Way

Cincinnati, OH 45202

(513) 421-2337

http://www.moerleinlagerhouse.com/

Montgomery Inn  (map it!)

925 Riverside Dr

Cincinnati, OH 45202

(513) 721-7427

http://www.montgomeryinn.com/

Holy Grail Tavern & Grille  (map it!)

161 Joe Nuxhall Way

Cincinnati, OH 45202

(513) 621-2222

http://www.holygrailcincy.com/html/home/home.php

Tin Roof Bar  (map it!)

160 E Freedom Way

Cincinnati, OH 45202

(513) 381-2176

http://www.tinroofbars.com/

Local Entertainment

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center  (map it!)

50 East Freedom Way

Cincinnati, OH 45202

(513) 333-7765

http://www.freedomcenter.org

Lodging

Hyatt Regency Cincinnati  (map it!)

151 W 5th St

Cincinnati, OH 45202

(513) 579-1234

http://cincinnati.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels/index.jsp?null

Millennium Hotel  (map it!)

150 W Fifth St

Cincinnati, OH 45202

(513) 352-2100

http://www.millenniumhotels.com/usa/millenniumcincinnati/

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