NFL Stadium #23: Paul Brown Stadium

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With all the air travel and public transportation I’ve been taking, I was looking forward to driving my own car for a quick visit to Cincinnati. Driving the less than two hours should’ve been easy, but that would’ve been boring. I hit stopped traffic for an hour north of the city. WHY CAN’T THINGS GO SMOOTHLY FOR ONCE?! Ok to be fair, things usually go smoothly, but I had to pee and wasn’t finished getting ready for the evening, so my emotions were “heightened.” I managed to do my makeup and decided this was going to be a straight haired game. The bathroom business would have to wait, though.

I didn’t plan on seeing a Battle for Ohio game but wasn’t mad the way my schedule fell. Last year’s Thursday night game was maybe the greatest Browns’ victory I’ve ever watched and I was hoping the Browns could tap into that magic again. The Bengals had given me a pair of tickets and I decided I should bring a Bengals fan with me, so I brought my friend Kappa, lifelong Cincinnatian. I wore a neutral Ohio shirt and a black jacket to sorta side with the Bengals, but my heart was all Browns. We met at his house and I hopped out of the car in front of the stadium and jumped the cement block of the highway and fast walked to the stadium to make sure I met my team contact Kristen on time.

Paul Brown is nestled between a highway and the river just down the bank from Great American Ball Park. Pittsburgh stadiums get all the love for views of the city/rivers, but Cincinnati’s stadiums have some too. You have the city skyline (best of the Ohio major cities, I’ll concede there) on one side and the Ohio River and Kentucky on the other side. There are tailgate lots on every side and they were full from what I observed as I crossed over the ramp to the stadium entrance. As I crossed into Paul Brown, I thought, “Hey, this place is a lot nicer than I remember.” I’d visited a few years ago when Peyton Manning and the Broncos were in town with Kappa and our friend Jared. My original impression was this stadium was a boring hunk of concrete. When I met Kristen I mentioned that it was nicer than I remembered and she told me the team had upgraded the concession stands and video boards, plus added bar areas. I knew it!

After planning out our post-game meeting location, I relaxed and now had over an hour to explore the stadium. The main concourse went completely around the stadium, but you had to go down and back up along the sidelines to pass under the suite entrances. This lower concourse area had some concessions and bars but was noticeably dated with minimal décor- just some banners of team legends. I must’ve only walked through this area during my last visit, hence my negative memories of what the stadium looked like. Once out into wide open end zone concourses, there’s a little more going on architecturally and nice views of the city or Ohio River. I’m a big fan of GABP down the street and it has a “gap” built in the upper deck for the skyline and I felt like there was a similar one built in the north end zone, though I could be desperate to make the comparison and give baseball some love.

The second level of the stadium is closed off on either sideline, but there is a walkway on the north end zone that would be a great place to stand and watch the game. Cleveland’s stadium has a very similar set up as well and saw a few Browns fans setting up shop here. There were a fair amount of fans that made the trek down, but they weren’t nearly as loud or cocky as they’d been in St. Louis. They knew what they were up against tonight! Finally, I climbed the steps to the upper concourse which was pretty standard, but the views around the stadium were very nice. I really do like this city… our state is great- top to bottom! On my way back down to the main concourse I texted Kappa because I was starting to wonder if he was ok, it can’t take that long to park! Our seats were in the last row of the lower bowl in the end zone the Browns were warming up in. I went down to “say hi” and thought the all white uniforms are perhaps my “favorite” of the new unis. Honestly, I still don’t like them, but I better get used to them as it might be a long time before the change them again.

Kappa and I met at our seats in time for team introductions and I did my best attempts at trash talking. It’s hard. His demeanor is very sarcastic and he doesn’t have to say much about my team’s history (currentness) to put me back in my place. We had a great time. This was Johnny Manziel’s first start this season and I think they need to roll with him the remainder of the year. He’s a first round pick for crying out loud, see if he’s the guy or not! I’m thinking not, but let’s give it a fair shake. The Bengals dominated the second half of the game and as soon as they went up by two touchdowns, the shift in the crowd was noticeable. Cincinnati fans had been nervous! Well, that’s a tiny victory. I do love the post-touchdown celebration for the Bengals though, so as they continued to score touchdowns, I got down to “Jungle Boogie” and learned some words to their fight song. They whole “Who Dey” thing isn’t nearly as annoying here. I think when their fans are traveling they yell it at each other way more to identify as fellow fans. Here they’re mostly Bengals fans and they only yelled it at the end of the fight song. That’s fine.

We stayed in our seats for most of the game but did go up to the bridge to take some pictures and see the field view. It was crowded, so the spot we found was fairly obstructed, but we did have a nice view of the beginning of one of the Bengals’ scoring drives. We went back to our seats, stopping to get a soft pretzel (my fav stadium treat) and watched the remainder of the game. Bengals ended up advancing to 8-0 for the first time in team history. This was the second time I’d seen a team stay perfect this week, so you’re welcome Cincinnati. I suppose I’ll take that credit to feel better about another Browns loss. I headed up towards the press box entrance to meet up with Kristen again. The stadium cleared out very quickly and the post-game traffic wasn’t horrible once I met back up with Kappa and walked to his car. He’d parked in a downtown lot and this was the quickest I’ve left a stadium with a car. I think the game not being close helped as people left early because it was a weeknight. My drive back to Columbus was must less eventful that the drive down, though it did start raining. I’m glad I visited Paul Brown Stadium again because I really liked it. Maybe I’ll go back down to watch the Bengals in the playoffs.

Remember I am raising money for the Ronald McDonald House in Central Ohio. Please donate by clicking here.

Special thank you to Kristen for her time and assistance during my visit!  Also, thank you to the Bengals for the tickets!


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