Before the Reds moved to Great American Ball Park, before the Bengals moved into Paul Brown Stadium, both teams played in a large oval called Riverfront Stadium. In its waning days, they called it Cinergy Field, after the electric company now part of Duke Energy. As a building, it had little to distinguish it from other 70’s era stadiums like Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, RFK Stadium in Washington, or the original Meadowlands complex in New Jersey. It was a big, round bowl.
But it was Cincinnati’s big round bowl.
For Cincinnati, it’s history. Opening in 1973, it rescued the fledgling Bengals from playing in the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, which was not the class facility you see in the NCAA games today. It also brought the Reds into a modern stadium just in time for the Big Red Machine to start their dominance of Major League Baseball.
For the Reds, Riverfront succeeded Crosley Field, where the team had played since before World War I. Crosley was a neighborhood stadium in the mold of Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds in New York. I-75 claimed part of Crosley’s outfield and bleachers, and neighborhood changes made the old field less practical for modern baseball.
Riverfront would become the site of both the Bengals’ and Reds’ greatest moments. The Reds, of course, had their run as the Big Red Machine in the 70’s at Riverfront, then revisited those days with their wire-to-wire championship season in 1990. The Bengals played both of their Superbowl seasons their in 1981 and 1988.
Near the end, it was where I got to see Ken Griffey, Jr.’s return to Cincinnati in 2000.
The end came, however, when, in an effort to keep the Bengals in Cincinnati resulted in Paul Brown Stadium. The Reds also benefited when voters agreed to also finance what is now Great American Ball Park. Riverfront finished its days as a baseball-only park when the eastern edge was demolished to make room for construction of GABP. In the end, the old stadium was demolished with experts collapsing Riverfront away from GABP. An era had ended.
More at the My Town Monday blog.