Defending Cincinnati as a Soccer Travel Destination
Someone or something is always hurt when an entire group is ranked from best to worst. When there is a first place, there is always a last place.
This was the case with the Cincinnati Bengals recently.
The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin ranked the NFL’s 30 best-to-worst cities as overall travel destinations for fans. If experience is what it means most to be qualified, then Volin can certainly speak up about it. In more than a dozen years covering the NFL, he says he has attended games in every city except Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Seattle.
He did see a Bengals home game with his own eyes, however, and his personal experience at Queen City was apparently not great. Cincinnati finished dead last in their standings.
30. Cincinnati: The ribs at the Montgomery Inn are great. And you can stay across the river in Covington to cross Kentucky off your list of states visited. But not much is happening in downtown Cincinnati, the stadium has no queue space, and Bengals games are rarely exciting.
This was posted about a week ago at the time of writing, and it has already touched many disgruntled Bengals and Cincinnatians fans. No one likes to be told they are the worst. You can phrase it however you like, but 30th out of 30 is the last place, plain and simple.
It even reached Bengals content director Seth Tanner:
Boy, this item is not going to age well in September. In 2021, Bengals fans will get something they’ve never seen before. I can promise you that. Https://t.co/sFaU1UQD2F
– Seth Tanner (@MaximusSethamus) July 12, 2021
Again, this is the nature of rankings: there has to be a low when there is a high.
This list is based on Volin’s personal experiences; it is inherently subjective. Nothing we can write can change his original perception of Cincinnati as the place to go to an NFL game. And who is anyone to claim that their own exposure to the city is invalid? If Cincinnati had been honored with a Top 10 list, the reactions would have been very different.
No, changing Volin’s mind or pretending his time in Cincinnati was better than he remembered is not the point here. In all fairness, there are clues to the truth as to why the city was ranked so low.
Downtown Cincinnati doesn’t have ocean beaches like Miami or Los Angeles. In fact, the further you move away from the waters of the Ohio River, the better for your personal health. It’s not a bustling metropolis like New York or Chicago. It is actually the third most populous city in Ohio. And Paul Brown Stadium is not a footballing landmark like Lambeau Field in Green Bay, or an innovative, colossal building like Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
In terms of NFL cities, Cincinnati is a modest change of pace from the more well-known metropolitan areas. But that’s not a bad thing at all.
Paul Brown Stadium is located in the southwest corner of downtown Cincinnati. The city’s most popular hotels are right next to or just across the river in Covington. For most of the outside fans coming to Cincy for the first time, guess what they don’t have to face? Traffic on the way to the match. Walking around the city center, Covington and Newport is an enjoyable experience in itself.
The cost of the hotel room could honestly be more expensive than the cost of going to the game. According to statista.com, the average ticket price for a Bengals game in 2020 was just under $ 80. Only the Los Angeles Chargers and Buffalo Bills had lower average prices. Entering the stadium will not be a problem for your wallet.
I’m not sure how anyone can say that Bengals games are rarely exciting when an offense built around Ryan Finley’s legs caused a two-point upset on Monday night football not even a year ago, but I digress.
Volin did uncover some hard truths, however. The traditional tailgating / parking scene outside of PBS is very different from that of the stadium’s first 10 years of existence. With the development of The banks between the Bengals and Reds stages along the river, Lot D east of PBS has shrunk significantly in size. Business development has almost completely overtaken this area, but the now vibrant bar and restaurant scene that replaced it offers plenty of options for visiting fans to enjoy the pre-game and post-game experience. .
When it comes to things to do in or around town, the options are a bit limited compared to other NFL destinations. There are no national forests to explore, and the nightlife isn’t as wild as in South Beach or Vegas. Cincinnati can’t compete in this area, but neither can most cities.
The fan atmosphere is something I think Volin didn’t really factor into his ranking, but it’s positive for the Bengals and Cincinnati as a whole. This city’s sports fans have not enjoyed professional playoff success for over 25 years. Bengals fans have specifically waited over 30 years. Needless to say, they know the difficulties better than most, and that’s something fans on other teams can appreciate. There isn’t a sense of arrogance you get when interviewing a crowd of Cowboys or Patriots fans. As long as you’re not wearing a Steelers outfit and running around your mouth, you’re pretty darn close to guaranteed civilian demeanor and hospitality from native Bengal fans.
And the food. My God, the food. Volin hit a big beat with Montgomery Inn BBQ, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You can fill a three day trip to Cincinnati with nothing but original hometown food and be totally satisfied. Pizza, burgers, beer, ice cream and Greek meat sauce we call chili. Your taste buds will want to come back soon enough.
I have lived in Cincinnati all of my life. I can’t imagine living elsewhere or too far away. I enjoy traveling as much as the next one and I recognize that other American cities have more to offer in certain areas.
I can’t promise you’ll like it as much as I do, but I’ll say you’ll probably like it more than Volin.