Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29
Great American Ball Park 100 Joe Nuxhall Way Cincinnati, OH 45202
Year Opened: 2003 Capacity: 42,059
And This One Belongs To The Reds
In 1881, the Cincinnati Red Stockings were a charter member of the American Association and joined the National League in 1890. This makes the Reds, as they were named in 1890, the oldest team in Major League Baseball. It is for this reason that baseball in Cincinnati is just a little bit different and a little bit more special.
Opening Day for the Reds is unlike anything else in the majors and holds near holiday status in Cincinnati. Winning five World Series titles, the Reds have enjoyed their share of ups and downs. From the Big Red Machine to the 1919 Black Sox scandal. From Johnny Bench and Joey Votto to Pete Rose and Marge Schott. The history of baseball in America is nowhere near complete without a full chapter on the Reds.
In 2006, Bob Castellini took over the Reds as the primary and current owner. Home for the Reds is Great American Ball Park; possibly the best corporate name for a ballpark in the country with Great American Insurance holding the naming rights until 2033.
The Reds ballpark trajectory is similar to many other Major League teams with the venerable years of the Reds playing at Crosley Field. The seventies through the nineties sent the Reds to the regrettable circular, multi-purpose Riverfront Stadium, before returning to a baseball-specific stadium in 2003.
Food & Beverage 4
The culinary experience at Great American Ball Park is solid. A healthy mix of ballpark expectations and Cincinnati staples is what one could expect at a Reds game. Chick-fil-A, Porkopolis, and Frybox are all spots that fans may want to check out.
The local favorites are goetta, which can be found at several different locations, and the Skyline Chili concessions. Skyline Chili Coneys are among the most recognizable Reds concession selections. New for the GABP is Skyline Chili Nachos, which seem like they should have been around forever.
50 West Burgers have new options including the GABP Burger, which is a Goetta burger. Sections 144 and 428 feature the All You Can Eat Stands where fans can purchase a pass for unlimited soda, popcorn, peanuts, chips, and 5 hot dogs.
The beer selection at GABP is among the best anywhere. The Reds Brewery District, by section 118, offers the largest selection of craft beers. Moerlein, Taft’s, and Mad Tree may be selections for the connoisseurs at the game. For a unique GABP experience, fans may wish to get tickets inside The Handlebar, which is the restaurant that can be found past centerfield, shaped like a riverboat.
Great American Ball Park is among the elite constructed ballparks in the league. The main entrance at home plate is at the northwest corner of the lot at the corner of Johnny Bench Way and Joe Nuxhall Way. The exterior differs from the retro classic parks that feature the now overused red brick and green seats. The main entrance features a clean, white iron and light brick look that is unique among its peers.
However, the exterior of the building is nearly lost by the presence of the plethora of Reds bronze statues which are at the top of the league. Joining Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench are the “Reds Legends of Crosley Field” which feature four bronze statues interacting together. The battery of Joe Nuxhall and Ernie Lombardi are attempting to strike out Frank Robinson, while Ted Kluszewski watches on.
Possibly the most iconic statue of the group, however, is the Pete Rose statue, which depicts Rose in his unique, head-first slide, pose, hair flowing in the wind. A bit of an engineering marvel, there seems to be no better way to show Rose.
The interior of Great American Ball Park does not disappoint. The main concourse features a host of treasures for those fans looking for a bit of an adventure. Numerous nods back to the original Reds and those Reds teams who were champions can be found throughout the ballpark, including giant newspaper pages hung from the ceiling.
Unique street names will help fans traverse the concourses. There are plenty of Reds markings around the concourses just in case fans can’t remember who plays at Great American. The seating bowl offers a huge variety of seating options on three main levels. A separation between the home plate and third base upper decks is known as “The Gap'' and offers a peek into the stadium from the outside. Beyond centerfield.
The Handlebar is an indoor/outdoor restaurant fans may wish to purchase tickets and inhabit. With the Power Stacks in right centerfield, the illusion of the riverboat, a Cincinnati staple, is prominent and gives a local feel to the structure. The Power Stacks shoot fireworks during the national anthem and home runs and fire when a Reds pitcher strikes out an opponent.
The massive videoboards in left-center and right-center are state of the art and offer more information than any baseball fan could desire. Reds history is honored with the achievements of the World Series teams of 1919, 1940, 1975, 1976, and 1990 with pennants on the facia in left field. Behind the plate, the retired number of Jackie Robinson is joined by the numbers of Fred Hutchison, Johnny Bench, Frank Robinson, Joe Morgan, Ted Kluszewski, Tony Perez, Sparky Anderson, Dave Concepcion, Barry Larkin, and Pete Rose. The numbers are joined by microphone discs for broadcasters Marty Brennaman, Joe Nuxhall, and Waite Hoyt.
The gameday production at a Reds game is as good as any in Major League Baseball. The Reds use their fair share of pyrotechnics. The mascots, Mr. Red, Mr. Redlegs, Rosie, and Gapper can be found throughout the ballpark interacting with fans and posing for photo ops. Redzilla, a dune buggy that fires t-shirts into the crowd, zips around the diamond a couple of times during select games. The use of the organ is higher than many other ballparks, giving the Reds experience a bit of a classic feel at times.
Located in the Central Business District in Downtown Cincinnati, Great American Ball Park is ideally situated to take advantage of the best the city has to offer. Just north of the Ohio River and east of the home of the Cincinnati Bengals, Paycor Stadium, the GABP has several great options for food and drink within steps of the stadium.
The area between the two stadiums is hopping! Moerlein Lager House, Yard House, The Filson Queen, Holy Grail, and Taste of Belgium are all very close. For fans looking for other sports in Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Bengals are just to the west of GABP, and immediately to the east is Heritage Bank Center, home of the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL.
Just north in the OTR district is TQL Stadium, home of FC Cincinnati of MLS. The University of Cincinnati also hosts Bearcats football, basketball, and baseball amongst other sports. Xavier Musketeers basketball is also a popular option. For fans wanting a more cultured experience, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is a must-visit as well as a riverboat cruise on the Ohio River.
A walk around Smale Riverfront Park, in the area between the two stadiums, may also be of interest. For fans wanting to stay near the ballpark, the AC Hotel by Marriott looks right over first base. There are also several options north of the highway.
The June 2023 resurgence of the Reds behind projected phenom Elly De La Cruz has produced a swelling at the turnstile for the Reds. At the time of writing, the Reds are averaging over 21,000 fans per game. This places them in 21st place in Major League Baseball.
Previous years, where the Reds struggled in the standings, saw over 17,000 fans per game and ranked them 24th in the league in 2022. Cincinnati is a baseball town, but attendance has not been as inelastic as in other markets. However, if the Reds consistently put a contending team on the field and draw stronger crowds, the mark for fans will no doubt increase.
Getting to Great American Ball Park is not too difficult. It is nestled neatly between the sunken highway I-71 and the Ohio River, part of the Central Business District in Downtown Cincinnati. Parking north of I-71 might be the best idea as getting down past the highway will make congestion a little more of a reality.
For fans coming from out of town, the proximity of Great American Ball Park to the major arteries is a plus. Interstate 75 can be found to the west and I-71 to the south with I-471 to the east. For fans wishing to take public transit, the light rail can be reached right outside of GABP as well as bus stops. Fans should consult the Go Metro website for fares, maps, and schedules.
With security protocols for Major League Baseball constantly changing, Stadium Journey recommends consulting the Cincinnati Reds website for the most up-to-date security information including bag policies and prohibited items.
Return on Investment 5
The Cincinnati Reds are one of the most affordable experiences in Major League Baseball. As with most teams, ticket prices are becoming increasingly difficult to decipher as they change from game to game. Tickets can be found for $20 in the upper bowl and go up to around $125.
A lower bowl ticket can be found for under $60 in the outfield area on the first and third base sides. The best value may be found in the 400 level on the third base side, which is equidistant to the 300 level on the opposite side but goes for $35 instead of $110. According to the 2022 Fan Cost Index, the Reds are far below the league average of $204 and end up in the bottom third at $157.
Concession prices are what one would expect and parking can be found for $30 or less. The experience is solid and the gameday production, although not over the top, offers a good balance between a classic baseball feel and modern production.
An extra mark for the history and longevity of the Cincinnati Reds, having been around since 1881, the oldest professional team in baseball.
An extra mark for Opening Day in Cincinnati. Opening Day is akin to a holiday and there is no other franchise or city that places as strong an emphasis on Opening Day as Cincinnati does.
Two extra marks for the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum. Although it requires a separate ticket, which usually comes with an excellent souvenir, the Reds Hall of Fame is simply the best team-centric museum in all sports.
The Cincinnati Reds have grasped a hold of their history and celebrated it better and stronger than any other team in Major League Baseball. Great American Ball Park captures that feeling and offers a fantastic baseball experience. If the Reds are doing well, it is that much better and must be considered among the elite of MLB. A Reds victory at GABP will have fans joining Reds legend Marty Brennaman proclaiming “And This One Belongs to the Reds.”